Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Simon's Rock Diversity Teach-In

Today was the Diversity Teach-in. All students were asked to attend two classes given today. There were three sessions times, with about ten classes offered in each session time, so there were many options to choose from. However, I will start with the events of yesterday.

On Tuesday we had a community meeting, which was scheduled Monday. Tuesdays are not a normal day for community meetings, but Mary Marcy, the Provost, felt that we ought to have one before the teach-in, as there was a lot of controversy surrounding the announcement of the teach-in. So more than a hundred students, faculty and staff gathered in Kellogg, and we had an open forum for discussion, where students and faculty and staff voiced their opinions and objections, and they were responded to by anyone who felt like they could respond. The session lasted for two hours, with some heated discussion. I didn't speak. Tim expressed concern over the recent vandalism of his dormitory, and the fact that while he is one of only seven students in the dorm, he had never been spoken to by Student Life about the incident.

Last night at seven, a lecture was given by Tim Wise, an author who is known for his talks on diversity. He was phenomenal, a very good public speaker who presented facts that coudln't be denied, and did it all while keeping the entire place rolling on the floor with laughter.

This morning the seminars started. I meant to go to one in the first session, but overslept. At twelve thirty I went to one about the limits of liberalism. It was lead by two of my favorite teachers, Asma Abbas, the main political science teacher (she started last semester but the entire student body adores her because she is a phenomenal teacher, I haven't had her for anything but have had extensive discussions with her) and Philip Mabry, my sociology teacher. The seminar was attended by more than forty people, so we moved out of the classroom we were packed into in favor of the lecture center. We talked a lot about the "liberalism" of Simon's Rock, and the manner in which the individual influences and is part of the community. It was interesting, I did not participate in the conversation because I was a bit uncomfortable with the lecture set up and intimidated by those who were speaking.

The second seminar I attended was called Black in the Berkshires, and was run by James King, my literature teacher, and Saleem, an RD who lives in the mods. The seminar started with James and Saleem producing facts about this area, and then sharing some of their stories from living here. They then opened the floor, and other black students in the seminar shared their experiences. We then began talking about how we can start to fix this and make black people more comfortable at our school and in the general community. The main lesson was that just because you don't see racism happening doesn't mean it isn't there, and we have to take the word of those who are experiencing it for true. Tim Wise had brought up at the lecture that racism was never considered a huge problem until a white man took a medicine that made him black for a couple months and he wrote about it. We had been hearing the same thing from black people all along, but no one really cared or believe it until it came from the mouth of a white man. I spoke some in this class, perhaps because I'm very comfortable with James King and Saleem, as well as the other students and teachers who were attending the seminar.

Following we had another community meeting to discuss the teach-in, and discuss what could have been done better and what we should change for the future. I spoke twice in this. First I said that I enjoyed the teach-in, but felt it was a jumping off point, and that one day was not enough to create a real change unless we continue with the idea. I also suggested that we can hardly expect diversity and it acceptance at our school until the Seminar Series, the only required classes at Simon's Rock, diversify rather than being a bunch of book written by dead white guys. I spoke about something else as well, but it is irrelevant outside of the context of the meeting. Overall this meeting was better than the first, with less tension and more productive things said. Perhaps the most interesting part was when we were all sharing our ideas by raising our hands, and Rory, a white male students, started talking without raising his hand more than once. Mia, the student who was running the meeting, asked him to raise his hand before he spoke, and he said "Damn the hands!" To which Kate van Olst, a senior, replied, "Damn white males dominating a conversation on diversity."

Overall, a very interesting twenty four hours.


James said...

Lucy, thanks for the excellent coverage. Just curious, what were the improvements that were discussed in the "Black in the Berkshires" class?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006 10:26:25 PM  
Lucy said...

This post has been removed by the author.

Thursday, March 16, 2006 1:49:53 AM  
Lucy said...

James started with a story about being in a store in town after teaching at The Rock for more than a year, and seeing a fellow faculty member. He was within four feet of the person, and said "Hello," in a store empty except for the two of them and the people working there. The faculty member turned and walked away without acknowledging him. In relation to this story and what we can do to improve our area, he said, "Well, start by saying hello back." A lot of it was the idea that we must first change our mentality before we can take action. He wanted us to try to think of people as individuals, all with individual stories.

I think the main point was that we acknowledge that we don't live in the ideal world, we live in a world and community in which racism is a significant problems and should be recognized as such. Admitting you have a problem is the first step.

Note: This is the second time I posted this, I deleted the first post because there were some errors I wanted to fix, which does not by any means mean that this version is errorless.

Thursday, March 16, 2006 1:53:08 AM  

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