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Simmons College, Spalding University announce partnership agreement

The agreement is focused on three areas: Student Life and Engagement, Academic Programs, and Campus and Fiscal Affairs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two Kentucky colleges are joining forces to create a better learning environment for their students.

Rev. Dr. Kevin Cosby and Dr. Toni Murden McClure, the presidents of Simmons College and Spalding University, respectively, announced and signed a new memorandum of agreement (MOA) Thursday.

The agreement is focused on three areas: Student Life and Engagement, Academic Programs, and Campus and Fiscal Affairs. Through the partnership, the schools will work together to make improvements in these areas for their students, staff and the community as a whole -- and provide them more opportunities for success in their respective fields of study.

Arguably, the bigger picture is racial equity, and what the move symbolizes.

Simmons College, a Historically Black College (HBCU), sits just a few blocks away from Spalding University, which is predominantly white. Both schools have long histories, having been around for more than 100 years. 

In the words of Rev. Cosby, this partnership shows a willingness to "cross the street," in a time of racial division.

"Now together our two institutions are seeing what's possible," Cosby said. "It's going to make a great impact on our city, our state and our nation. We are neighbors."

Dr. McClure said the schools have worked quietly together for years, but she felt that now was the time to make the public gesture.

"We're in a period right now in the United States, where we're seeing some regression in civil rights and civic good."

This comes two and a half years after controversy surrounded a new athletic facility for Spalding University. In 2019, Spalding opened a brand new sports complex on a piece of land that Simmons College President Kevin Cosby said Simmons had tried to purchase in the years prior.

At the time, Simmons brought racial equity into question. Students and staff at Simmons described the move as an example of "white privilege" and launched a call to action to level the educational playing field.

On Thursday, presidents of both schools said the conflict was never between each other.

"It was not targeted specifically at Spalding, because Spalding is challenged just like Simmons is challenged. It was intended to highlight inequities," Cosby said.

The presidents of these two schools said they want to move away from their controversial past and toward a more unified future.

The announcement was good news for students, too. Simmons College senior Deja Ellis said he will be attending Spalding University for graduate programs.

"I was excited because who doesn't want to keep going on this journey of education," Ellis said.

Through the partnership, Ellis said he believes students will reap the benefits.

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