Building Communities for Social Justice: Local and Global Leadership
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 14:09
Last spring, students protested hate crimes on campus with cries of “Diversity does not equal social justice!” In recognition of the recurring nature of such crimes at Smith, as well as the everyday incidents that occur, often called microaggressions, the SGA Diversity Committee and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity teamed up this summer to offer the first multi-day social justice training for members of the Diversity Committee across campus. Training began Sep. 1, just before the start of the fall semester.
The three and a half day training, called “Building Communities for Social Justice: Local and Global Leadership,” was planned and executed by Smith alumna Anne Watanabe ’12, who interned with the OIDE this summer. The training featured workshops by Smith students and alumnae and was attended by Diversity Representatives from nearly all of Smith’s houses and many student-run organizations. In addition to planning the training, Watanabe worked on a resource binder for all houses, full of social justice terminology, organizations and resources.
Some of the highlights of the training included a keynote address by Jenny Hammond ’90, entitled “Think Outside the Box: Identity and Intersectionality,” a workshop on gender variance and gender non-conformity headed by Jaime Rossow ’14, Rachel Briggs and Kendra Colburn ’06’s workshop on class and classism, Katie Lipp’s social justice foundations workshop and Jennifer Daigle-Matos ’03’s keynote, “What Love Looks Like in Public.”
In addition, there were presentations from the Offices of Disability Services, Religious and Spiritual Life, International Students & Scholars, Multicultural Affairs and Bridge and Admissions. Laura Rauscher, the Director of Disability Services, and Ana Darrow ’15 challenged participants to confront their biases and advised on how to support students with disabilities. L’Tanya Richmond, Director of Multicultural Affairs, together Carro Hua ’13, Keisha Cassel ’13 and Bridge alumnae taught diversity representatives about the history and importance of the Bridge program for students of color at Smith.
Non-Smith presenters included Jenny Kurtz, former Area Coordinator at Smith and Staff Advisor to the Resource Center for sexuality and Gender (RCSG), and current Director of the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities at Rutgers University; Ellen Perrella, from the Physical Education and Athletics Department at Mount Holyoke College; and Carrie Stewart, owner and principal of One World Consulting. Topics included sexuality and heterosexism, racism and white privilege and “Separating Fat from Fiction: Exploring Myths, Realities, and Assumptions.” The latter explored a rarely-mentioned topic in the diversity or social justice spheres – bias against people who are overweight or obese, and the assumptions made about them.
Throughout the week, attention was drawn to the student and staff resources are available on campus and within the Smith alum community. Members of the Diversity Committee became familiar with offices on campus and the various resources they could offer to houses and student organizations. Although the days were long, Diversity Representatives left with a stronger understanding of the complexities and nuances of difference and how social identity interaction plays into social justice and anti-oppression work.
Next year, the Committee plans to bring Diversity Representatives back to campus with the first year students so they can get to know new students throughout the training period, as well as establish themselves as an important resource within their house.
Suggestions or questions for the Diversity Committee can be submitted by contacting your house’s diversity representative, or contacting the Diversity Committee Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org.