All-College Day to study race, privilege

Anti-racist white activist Tim Wise instructs us, “Standing still is never an option so long as inequities remain embedded in the very fabric of the culture,” in his penultimate book, Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity. Wise will present a lecture entitled Beyond Diversity: Challenging Racism in an Age of Backlash to the Vassar community this Monday, Feb. 18 at 5:00 p.m. in the Villard Room. The presentation kicks off programming for this year’s All College Day(s), a series of events, lectures, discussions and activities organized around the theme of race, privilege and power.

The roots of All College Day stem from a campus-wide conversation about a racial epithet used in a theater production back in 2000.

“The planning group agreed that every few years we should return to what is probably the most difficult conversation to have—race,” explained Edward Pittman ’86, the Associate Dean of the College.

Unlike previous years, the 13th anniversary of All College Day will be celebrated with both a keynote speaker and conversations facilitated by faculty, students and administrators.

Rather than doing traditional “tabling” to spread the message of the event, organizers hope a series of critical, blunt, deeply personal, and even uncomfortable discussions about race, privilege and power will help members of the Vassar community avoid the “standing still” that Wise advises us against. No doubt these are necessary platforms for helping us move forward in our collective thinking about race and difference, as Vassar Student Association President Jason ‘Rubin ’13 explained, “Based on conversation last semester, I think a lot of people are looking for different ways to approach, discuss, and tackle these issues.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 19 between 1:30 and 2:50 p.m. three campus discussions will be held in Main Building. Professor of Sociology Diane Harriford and the Tanebaum Inter-Religious Fellow Joseph Glick will facilitate a discussion on color-blindness, asking participants to consider whether “erasure of memory” is a progressive or regressive process.

Kate Dolson ’13 and Judy Jarvis ’07, the Assistant Director for Campus Life/LBGTQ and Gender Resources will lead a conversation about white privilege, anti-racist white allies, and the LGBTQ. Directory of Residential life Luis Iona will then help students consider the power of words and their influence on our individual and communal identities and expectations.

Later, Tuesday afternoon and evening, students and members of the Vassar community will have the opportunity to respond to Tim Wise’s lecture as well as think about race, privilege and power in the context of higher education. From 3:10 to 4:30, there will be four conversation lectures covering topics ranging from race and politics at Vassar, a session to examine race consciousness and college admissions policies, and a discussion of campus security and profiling, pulling its title from the works of W.E.B. DuBois, “What does it feel like to be a problem?”

In the evening, beginning at 6 p.m. students can debrief the Tim Wise lecture in the ACDC or engage in a brainstorm about how white people might better think about, discuss, and combat racism in the Faculty Parlor.

On Wednesday, Feb. 20th the Vassar community will have the opportunity to engage physically and intellectually with topics brought up during discussions on Tuesday with the Mural Project in the College Center Atrium by painting, writing, or drawing the images and words with which they have been grappling.

At noon on Wednesday the Faculty Commons will host an informal soup lunch for conversation, thoughts and reflections, and at 7:30 p.m. students and faculty alike with gather at the athletics and fitness center for the 4th annual Students vs. Old School Basketball Game.

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