FARI pushes for new campus barber

The student group Fighting Against Racial Injustice is working with CAS and other campus players to bring a hairdresser to campus who is able to cut black students' hair.

The need for a solution, which FARI described as "long-overdue," came to their attention as they were working on a documentary about racism on the Geneseo campus.

"In interviewing numerous Geneseo students and alumni, many mentioned that there are no facilities for them to get their hair done," said FARI co-founder Cortez Jones. "This led us to investigate."

FARI spoke with alumni who graduated as far back as the 1960s, and an overwhelming number had experienced the same problem. Historically, black students have had trouble finding places to get a haircut in Geneseo since most barbers and beauticians are not trained to work with their hair.

Since bringing the issue to the college's attention, the project has gone through various phases. According to FARI, the administration suggested that it would cost between $25,000 and $75,000 to bring in a hairdresser for black women in particular, due to equipment space, chemicals and ventilation. Due to this expense, the initial solution was to send the LATS bus to salons and barber shops in Rochester so that students could get their hair cut on the weekends.

"The bus never went," said Jones. "And the ladies had to walk almost a mile from the stop to get to the salon."

The newest initiative is to bring properly-trained barbers from Rochester.

"I'd like to always provide students with the best services possible," said Mark Scott, executive director of CAS.

The process has been slightly protracted since the college leases out the salon space in the Union. Barry Kaplan of Sundance Books runs the campus store, including the haircutting area. He subleases the latter to Nancy Least, who also owns Salon Secrets on Route 20A. Kaplan said he strives to have his store feature as many services as possible, which is why he initially added the salon area.

FARI described the administration as being "standoffish" towards the idea of contracting with a hairstylist that specializes in styling black students' hair.

"The fact that it's an issue is the school's problem," said Scott. "But since they don't own that space, it is not directly their responsibility."

Adding new barbers has been no easy feat. In addition to the barber's license that each individual must have, the space itself must acquire a license to perform this type of service as well.

"Nancy has applied for the license," said Scott. "Hopefully we will have a few new stylists in place sooner rather than later."

Although white students may choose not to get their hair cut on campus or even in Geneseo, Jones points out that currently they at least have the option. Until black students have a barber available to them, he called this, "the clearest-cut example of discrimination on campus."