UNH will be hosting three barbers from Boston on April 19 who will offer free haircuts to students – catering to all hair types and styles – in a return to a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative first held on campus prior to the pandemic.
The event will be held in Lundholm Gymnasium from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The initiative originally came about because many Black students and student-athletes were driving long distances – often to other states like Massachusetts – or waiting to return home for breaks to have their hair cut and styled, due to a lack of local outlets that were able to tailor service to all hair types.
The April 19 event will bring those services directly to students, thanks to UNH’s Committee on Mutual Respect (COMR), which revived the barbershop initiative. Marcel Vernon, UNH’s chief financial officer, helped secure the barbers from D’Cachet Barber Shop in Boston through a friendship with the owner, and also covered the cost of having the barbers visit for the day.
“I love what Marcel said about this event, that as a community we can show that diversity is supported in what can sometimes be seen as a non-diverse space,” says Sarah Ross, assistant athletic director for student-athlete wellness and academic support services. “Our Black students and students of color don’t see a lot of people who look like them in the close surrounding area, and there are not a lot of resources that support them. This is one way for us to say, ‘we see you; we support you’ and be able to bring those resources here.”
The event is fully sponsored, making it free for students, though tips to the barbers are strongly encouraged.
Students certainly responded to the return of the event, filling about 60 percent of the open reservations within the first day of it being posted on social media. All but a few of the 36 available appointment times throughout the day are full.
“Usually events take a lot of pushing, but this one kind of sold itself,” Ross says.
Ross also noted that there will be elements of the event that students who don’t have an appointment to get their hair cut can benefit from, as well, including educational materials displayed throughout the gym highlighting the importance of barbershops in Black culture, as well as music traditional to Black barbershops that will be played throughout the day.
The goal is to build on the success of this event and host days like it more often, Ross says, including potential outreach to other barbershops closer to campus to increase the number of outlets featured – and introduce students to accessible options, if possible.
“The dream is that we’d be able to host twice a semester going forward,” Ross says, acknowledging that financial hurdles would be the only impediment to doing so. “I think that would give us the chance to connect with multiple barbershops and try to connect with more local shops if possible, so we could send our students there, too.”