CHAS brings Crenshaw, ‘Hidden Figures’ to campus

Kimberlé Crenshaw is scheduled to speak at Vassar this Friday, March 3. / Photo courtesy of Clarke Forum

This Friday, seminal feminist thinker and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw will be giving the Keynote Lecture for the Consortium on High Achievement and Success (CHAS) Women of Color conference: (Re)defining Women of Color: Raising our Voices, Sharing our Stories.

Crenshaw is renowned in her field for revolutionizing the way academia perceives law, and, more specifically, its role in the lives of women and women of color.

Co-editor of the volume Critical Race Theory: Key Documents That Shaped the Movement and co-founder of the African American Policy Forum, Crenshaw pioneered the fields of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, working to raise awareness of and bolster advocacy for violence against women, structural racial inequality and affirmative action.

The lecture will be held at 1:30 at the Student’s Building. The Vassar Conference Planning Committee said of the talk, “[We] decided that Professor Crenshaw’s lecture would be a campus-wide event. We recognize her broad appeal and welcome your attendance. The CHAS Women of Color Conference is a student-centered event focused on women-identified students of color. As a result, the remainder of the conference activities will be for registered participants.”

While Vassar hosts Crenshaw and the CHAS WoCC, Women in STEM will be screening the 2016 film “Hidden Figures” on campus, supporting the conference’s themes of intersectionality and black feminism.

“Hidden Figures” focuses on the true story of female mathematicians and rocket scientists at NASA who helped land men on the moon. / Photo courtesy of NASA Kennedy via Flickr

One of the chief organizers of the screening, Visiting Assistant Professor in Mathematics and Statistics Moshe Cohen, shared, “The movie brings up several issues that impact departments and programs across campus: STEM fields, political science, history, education. Hopefully students from different majors and different backgrounds can use this shared experience as a way to engage with each other on some of these issues that are still relevant today. We can learn a lot from each other if we’re willing to listen.”

Cohen noted that The Hidden Figures Committee, a group of faculty, staff and students responsible for bringing this film to campus, chose to screen the movie due to its positive portrayal of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers and, specifically, its treatment of the lived experiences of women and women of color in STEM careers.

He added that these types of events are all the more integral to the wellbeing and culture of the Vassar student body, considering our origins as a women’s college.

He continued, “Our committee includes faculty from several STEM departments, the director of the Women’s Center, students from organizations like Women in STEM, Women in CS [Computer Science], and the Association of Women in Mathematics, and faculty from Political Science, History, Education and STS who have arranged to include material from the movie in their courses this semester.”

Collaborator and Director for the Campus Life LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center Jodie Castanza said the following of Cohen and the efforts to bring the screening to campus: “One of my favorite things Dr. Cohen has said since the beginning of the planning for all the events around Women in STEM is that (and I’m paraphrasing a bit) ‘We cannot change the experience of Women and Femmes in STEM until we change the behavior of men in STEM.’ His energy, commitment and dedication have kept me motivated to make sure this happens.

“This is why we are bringing the movie, hosting discussions after the showings, partnering with Strong House and the Women in STEM pre-org to support their events, collaborating with faculty to dialogue with students and also to do a faculty discussion among faculty, and others are planning more things throughout this semester and beyond. I have committed to the Women in STEM org that this is not a oneshot deal—this is a topic we are committed to continual work, education, programming and dialogue around, year after year.”

The CHAS WoCC sponsors are: The ALANA Center, Office of Residential Life, Women’s Center, and the Education Department, Physics Department, Political Science Department, Sociology Department, and the African Students’ Union (ASU), Asian Students’ Alliance (ASA), Black Students’ Union (BSU), Council of Black Seniors (CBS), Middle Eastern Students Collective (MESC), Multi-racial/Bi-racial Students Association (MBSA), SouthEast Asian Students’ Alliance (SEASA), UJIMA – a Groove Society, the VSA Social Consciousness Fund, and Dialogue and Engagement across Differences initiative.

The conference and screenings come at a particularly fraught moment on campus.

Holding these events just a week after the news of racist, hateful vandalism in the Thomson Library was publicized, CHAS and the Hidden Figures Committee offer a place of solidarity, comfort and learning in this of racial and political strife.

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