This year’s Power and Privilege Symposium will be held on February 20, 2014. Because classes have been cancelled that day in response to ASWC’s resolution condemning racism on campus, organizers expect much higher attendance than last year. ASWC oversees the symposium by planning, marketing and funding it.
The 2006 blackface incident spurred the first symposium. The symposium was well-received but finite; it did not return the next year. In 2013 the symposium re-emerged, and after its conclusion, James Lavery ’16, Mcebo Maziya ’15, and Marical Diaz Mejia ’13 wrote Act SAS 13.2 (the Power and Privilege Symposium Act), which mandated that ASWC coordinate and contribute to funding the Power and Privilege Symposium each year. The act establishes a separate committee responsible for organizing the symposium and headed by the Special Initiatives Director, a new position in ASWC. This year’s Special Initiatives Director is Shireen Nori ’16. The act also requires that ASWC allocate $2000 annually to pay for it.
The act’s text states that it “was created to support the discussion on diversity on the Whitman campus and seeks to spark dialogue about the ways in which social hierarchies and identities manifest themselves on the Whitman College campus.”
Last year’s theme was “Why Race Matters.” This year’s theme, “Understanding Identity,” was selected because it can encompass issues besides race that students wanted to examine (such as gender/sexuality and environmental justice) and expand that content via intersectionality. “We really wanted to make the symposium accessible to all students and faculty across campus,” said Nori.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Brown University Professor of Africana Studies Tricia Rose, the director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, described on its website as “an interdisciplinary campus-wide hub for generative ideas, public conversation, creative expression and engaged scholarship on race and ethnicity in America.”
Students will continue to work hard in the next couple weeks. “We hope to create spaces to talk about difficult issues outside of the classroom,” said Nori.