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BMC Diversity Conversations 2003-04 Forum

BMC Diversity Conversations 2003-04 Forum


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refractions?
Name: Hayley Tho
Date: //2003-09-10 01:26:41 :
Link to this Comment: 6400

Hola all:

It's well past my bedtime and I'm exhausted, but I felt compelled to post something about the Town Hall tonight, about the pluralism workshop for first-year students in which I participated during orientation week, and about Roger Guenveur Smith's "Two Fires" which I saw between the first two.

I'm a big fan of Smith's and was thrilled beyond words to be able to shake his hand after the staging of "Two Fires" in late August during the Fringe Festival. I'm hoping he will agree to do a version of the show for the TRICO community at some point in the near future.

His channeling of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia and the 1985 bombing of the MOVE in West Philadelphia was eerie, uncanny and authentic. I dislike the word "authentic" for more reasons than I care to share. Plus, it's a particularly ironic word to use for describing art and artifice, but it feels right in this context.

So much of Smith performance was somatic, non-verbal except for the soundtrack accompanying a particular era or feeling. But that's not exactly the same as silent, I'm re-discovering. We got at some of that nuace in the pluralism workshop, but the complexity of silence manifested itself to me again at tonight's town hall.

I'm grateful for what was said and shared and acknowlege the courage and risk that went into that sharing. And I hope that the variety of issues raised around what diversity means at BMC isn't silenced by attention only to racial and ethnic difference. Those can't be the only terms of discussion; and recognizing that differences exist can't be the final word of the 'talk-thing" in which we're engaged.

Instead, I hope we can get to a place where we accept that we have a responsibility to confront, to use a local word, what difference can cost and engender--discomfort, discrimination, alliances, soul-searching, learning--in and out of the classroom.

I hope we won't be silent about the need to figure out ways to address those costs thoughtfully and persistently, such they might benefit all of us, both in and out of the classroom.

I guess what I really hope is that all of this dialetical give-and-take won't just be polite talk--that as an institution and as individual members of this community we will give up, let go of, and exorcise pieces of the skin we're in for the sake of authentic (there's that word again) and resolute transformation.

You don't need a special pedigree or identity-position to be effective and heard--sincerity, ambivalence, and inquisitveness all count, indeed are necessary (I have to keep reminding myself of this) . And your part doesn't have to be accompanied by trumpet and fanfare--there is a certain brilliance in that which appears to be silence.

Just ask Roger.


refractions/reflections
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-09-10 10:11:09 :
Link to this Comment: 6403

I/we owe Haley a lot for staying up past her bedtime ... and all the wisdom/commitment to making this an "authentic" conversation reflected in that. Haven't seen/heard of RGS before but hope we can indeed bring him to the campus as part of what we're all doing.

A few other thoughts, off our town meeting last night and Haley's note. I too am grateful for what was said and shared and acknowledged last night (there are more of Mary Wilson's poems here). And I too think there is a lot to be learned from the "somatic, non-verbal", including silence. But ... silence is ambiguous as to meaning. It can be indicate engagement, or non-engagement. What we need if we genuinely want to create a culture of diversity is widespread engagement, a community in which everyone talks in their own way and is listened to. I very much hope last night was the beginnings of that kind of engaged community.

Like Haley, I too think its important to recognize that what needs to be talked about is not only race and ethnic differences. What needs to be talked about/understood/made sense of is ALL the differences that make each of us who we are, that distinguish each of us from one another, that make us individuals. There IS discomfort in that, but there is also promise. It is not only our commonalities that make us valuable to one another but also our differences. It is from those differences that we can each learn, that we can each become more of what we each want to be, and that we can together create things that no one of us can create alone.

There is a tendency to think of "diversity" as a tired topic, a testbed for political correcteness. It isn't. All cultures have a tendency to use differences to disable some individuals within them. No culture yet has started with the proposition that difference is valuable, and then happily accepted the challenge of figuring out how to minimize the oppression, discrimination, and discomfort that has always been associated with difference in the past. That's the challenge I hope we can begin to meet with this conversation, not only for the BMC community but for the world. Its a challenge more than big enough and more than rich enough to involve everyone. And a challenge that can't be met without everyone's involvement.


general thoughts
Name:
Date: //2003-09-10 23:27:58 :
Link to this Comment: 6427

I know this is a long posting and so if you only read the first three lines please at least get to this part: Issues such as race and gender and sexual orientation are incredibly important to the individual's sense of self. I think the important thing is that as a community we strive to see diffrences not as a source of division or alienation but as valuable and extraordinary assets to our community and which deserve to be celebrated. I think that in today's world people are often quite big on the idea of 'tolerance': You tolerate me, I'll tolerate you, we'll all tolerate each other. I've never quite understood this as in every other context 'to tolerate' someone has negative undertones. But perhaps it is accurate as in today's culture we do tend to tolerate differences rather than celebrating them. When people say that they tolerate diffrences I think that often what they mean is that they ignore them or pretend they don't see them. Understandable--regrettable-- but understandable given the level of discomfort that many people feel when confronting the issue of race. However, I think it's important to remember that diversity does not mean walking around ignoring diffrences...anyone can do that. Diversity, at least in my opinion is recognizing and celebrating those traits in others that make them different from you. It is in the celebration of those diffrences that the value of diversity lies. Can we ever really know anyone else without acknowledging thier race, gender, sexual orientation--things that are so central to people's identity? What we want here at Bryn Mawr, or at least what I think we want, is a community of individuals who have brought with them to this school expereinces and knowledge that truly enrich the environment. However, a truly diverse community can never happen until we feel comfortable expressing our own identities-- as laden as they are with potentially conflicting views and feelings and beliefs.


general thoughts
Name: Maria Scot
Date: //2003-09-10 23:28:30 :
Link to this Comment: 6428

I know this is a long posting and so if you only read the first three lines please at least get to this part: Issues such as race and gender and sexual orientation are incredibly important to the individual's sense of self. I think the important thing is that as a community we strive to see diffrences not as a source of division or alienation but as valuable and extraordinary assets to our community and which deserve to be celebrated. I think that in today's world people are often quite big on the idea of 'tolerance': You tolerate me, I'll tolerate you, we'll all tolerate each other. I've never quite understood this as in every other context 'to tolerate' someone has negative undertones. But perhaps it is accurate as in today's culture we do tend to tolerate differences rather than celebrating them. When people say that they tolerate diffrences I think that often what they mean is that they ignore them or pretend they don't see them. Understandable--regrettable-- but understandable given the level of discomfort that many people feel when confronting the issue of race. However, I think it's important to remember that diversity does not mean walking around ignoring diffrences...anyone can do that. Diversity, at least in my opinion is recognizing and celebrating those traits in others that make them different from you. It is in the celebration of those diffrences that the value of diversity lies. Can we ever really know anyone else without acknowledging thier race, gender, sexual orientation--things that are so central to people's identity? What we want here at Bryn Mawr, or at least what I think we want, is a community of individuals who have brought with them to this school expereinces and knowledge that truly enrich the environment. However, a truly diverse community can never happen until we feel comfortable expressing our own identities-- as laden as they are with potentially conflicting views and feelings and beliefs.


"robbing uniqueness of its charms"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-09-11 14:20:01 :
Link to this Comment: 6439

Ruth Guyer is a BMC alum who teaches classes in bioethics @ Haverford and makes her living as a journalist. She just forwarded to me a link to an article she published last week (9/8/03) in The Washington Post: "Raising Brian: An Ethicist Explores the Costs--and Rewards--of Caring for a Child Born with Chromosomal Anomaly." In light of our current conversations about celebrating difference, I found particularly striking Ruth's account of

All that deepens and extends, in several interesting and helpful directions,our diversity conversations here. For which thank you, Ruth.

Anne


mtg report - 13 sept 03
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-09-13 09:59:57 :
Link to this Comment: 6461

Twelve students, faculty, and staff colleagues met this afternoon for the first of this year's biweekly "diversity conversations". Originally planned as a discussion of "biology and diversity", the group elected to use that topic as a take-off point for a broader sharing of views on this year's "Diversity at Bryn Mawr: A Conversation" program.

It was suggested that "diversity" is being heard by a large number of students as a "tired" topic, a stand-in for encouraging "tolerance", "civility", "fairness", and "equity", and hence that fewer students than one might hope were being attracted to the ongoing conversations. The "biology of diversity" was intended to encourage a fresh approach to issues that, however they are immediately perceived, are actually quite important and yet to be adequately dealt with (here or elsewhere). The suggestion, in short form, was to recognize that diversity is a fundamental characteristic of all living systems (lots of different cells in an organism, lots of different organisms in an ecosystem) and move from that to a consideration of why this is so and what new problems it calls attention to. Systems made up of diverse elements are capable of activities over and above those achievable by individual elements or collections of homogeneous elements. At the same time, they are subject to problems and instabilities reflecting the need for coordination of elements themselves having different behaviors and objectives.

A translation of this perspective to the local context would have it that "diversity" is not something that should be regarded as a stand-in for "tolerance", "civility" or "fairness/equity". Instead, diversity should be regarded as an essential characteristic of an effective educational system, one in which all participants are, by virtue of their differences, valued not only as learners but also as teachers. From this perspective, one would then ask what strains and pressures must be faced to assure the needed diverse community, and then develop mechanisms for dealing with those.

There was some sense that an approach along these lines might in fact bring some freshness to the conversations, particularly by emphasizing that diversity conversations needed to consider not only how to make a functional diverse "community" but also what was to be gained by individuals creating/participating in such a community. At the same time, there were concerns expressed that the "equity" matter remained important, that cultural institutions still used "difference" to control individuals, and that individuals needed a sense of confidence in and relatedness to a community genuinely diverse at all levels before they would be fully willing to commit themselves to the concept of a diverse community. The ideas that students are also teachers and that everyone (including both students and teachers) needs to value working "outside their comfort zone" are not yet wide-spread either in conception or in application.

Against this background, the group discussed the beginnings this year of the "Diversity at Bryn Mawr" program and what lessons there might be that could be used to enhance the conversations. In addition to needing to overcome the "tired topic" perception, it was noted that the beginning of the school year is a challenging time for students and that student participation in the Town Hall meeting and this first diversity conversation might have been greater if they had been scheduled after peoples' lives had settled into more of a routine. It was also suggested that one might add to existing programing some focused, "controversial" presentations. At the same time, the group felt that smaller diversity conversations, like this one, that took a broader and more "intellectual" perspective on issues of diversity were an appropriate and desireable part of a larger programming package.

The feeling was also expressed that, despite fewer people participating in initial events than some might have hoped for, those events had already had meaningful impact of a kind that seemed likely to expand community involvement in the conversations and already brought together new constellations of students/faculty/staff who could/would contribute to that expansion. Those involved in the first diversity conversation committed themselves to doing so.


town hall et al
Name: rona pietr
Date: //2003-09-15 11:46:38 :
Link to this Comment: 6479

A belated thanks to Hayley Thomas for organizing the Town Hall and to all who spoke. I was touched by so much of what was said; in particular, I loved the comment of one of the initial speakers [so sorry not to remember your name! I believe you were the one who's dad is a minister in Colorado]about it being difficult to feel part of a diverse community because, among other things, there are "no rituals of diversity." I'd love for us to develop a ritual of diversity -- something that would celebrate the richness that we enjoy when we engage with thse from different backgrounds, different histories, different religions, different cultures. Email me if you'd like to work on developing some possible rituals of diversity!

I was struck by how many of the speakers at the Town Hall issues of belonging and exclusion. And by how parts of so many of the speakers' comments sounded like my story too -- but not quite.

I grew up in a steel-mill community at the southeast end of Chicago. The one grandmother I knew left Austria-the Ukraine-Yugoslavia (the name of the nation depends on which soldiers had taken control of her town at any particular time in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries)when she was 12, after both her parents had died. My other grandmother (who died in the 1930's of cancer) came to the US from Poland with her husband and the two oldest of her eventual family of 7 children around 1910; I believe they emigrated because my grandfather didn't want to be drafted into the army of whatever country was occupying Poland then. None of my grandparents had much formal schooling, my dad quit high school in 9th grade or so, and my mom -- who has a fine mind and today clearly would have gone on to college -- left high school sometime in her senior year. When I was a kid, my mom told me that she herself left school to help my grandmother support her younger siblings; she tells me now that she left because there was no money in her family for the accoutrments of high school graduation, and she hadn't wanted her financial limitaitons to be obvious to her classmates. Probably both stories are true, as well as many other explanations she hasn't shared with me, some of which she may not be aware of herself. I am in awe sometimes of the more-than-geographical distance I've come from the world of my grandparents, and even that of my parents.


rhizomes
Name: Chelsea
Date: //2003-09-17 13:59:33 :
Link to this Comment: 6510

Hi everyone out there! First, I just want to say thank you to everyone who was involved in bringing this wonderful discussion about this year! Some of this thinking/talking reminded me of something i read for my English 250 class. We were discussing the question "What is Literature?" and to this end read and article (which I couldn't find in full text online, sorry!) by Giles Deleuze entitled "Rhizome versus Trees." The title is about as ambiguious as the article seems at first brush; but after most of one class was devoted to it, a rather obvious point was being made- that literature, and I would venture to say life (and everything in it), is not a neatly ordered tree as we tend to think about it, but a spastic, interconnected rhizome. In saying this, I'm not talking about "life" as evolution, I mean life as we experience it. Life as we experiece it MUST be unpredictable because we are all connected to each other, so it is impossible to do something wholly without influencce from the people around you.

Deleuze uses the example of a wasp landing on an orchid for illustration of his rhizome. When the wasp lands and touches the orchid, it is forever changed becuase some part of the orchid, no matter how small it might be, will be impressed upon the wasp. It is, as he says, no longer a wasp but a "becoming-orchid." In its own turn, the orchid is now a "becoming-wasp" because it was also changed. Everything that happens to us, everyone we meet, everything we do, will stay with us and effect us for the rest of our lives, whether we know it or not. The more people who get involved in something, the more people it reaches and the bigger the influence is. To connect this more specifically to the diverstiy discussion- there is not one person in the world who could successfully argue that problems and issues associated with diversity don't effect them...which seems REALLY obvious to say, but sometimes we need to be reminded of it. Those of us who are "white bread americans" need to be reminded that we have both an obligation AND a right to be involved in diverstity discussions. I think that the "right" is important in that sentence because sometimes it's really easy to say, "I have no idea what being discriminated against because of my race feels like, I have no place here." THAT's when it's important to remember that we are all connected and everything we do or the people around us do leaves an impression and can make positive changes in other's lives.

Chelsea


Latina/o playwriting panel
Name: Mark Lord:


You are invited to attend a public panel on Latina/o playwriting:

Shaping the Future of the American Voice:
A Conversation on Potentiality, Difference, and Community in the New Global order
(a playwright's perspective)

Playwrights and scholars confirmed as of this writing include

Aravind Enrique Adyanthaya, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Ricardo Bracho, Jorge Ignacio Cortinas, Michael Garces, Eduardo Machado, Oliver Mayer, Rogelio Martinez, Alejandro Morales, Jose Estaban Munoz, Ruben Polendo, Carmen Rivera, Elaine Romero, Alberto Sandoval, Candido Tirado and Nilo Cruz, Migdalia Cruz, and Luis Santeiro


Moderated by Caridad Svich*


On November 10, 2003 from 6-8 PM
At INTAR, 508 West 53rd Street, NYC
Followed by a reception.

This panel is made possible by the TCG/Pew National Theatre Artist Resident Program,
And will be documented for future print or digital publication (TBA).

Please RSVP to csvich21@aol.com

* Caridad Svich is a playwright-songwriter-translator-editor. She is the 2002-2003 TCG/Pew Resident Artist at INTAR, and was formerly a Radcliffe fellow at Harvard University. Her play Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (a rave fable) premieres at 7 Stages in Atlanta in January 2004. She is co-editor of Out of the Fringe: Contemporary Latina/o Theatre & Preformance (TCG, 2000), Theatre in Crisis? Performance Manifestos for a New Century (MUP/Palgrave, 2002) and Conducting a Life: Reflections on the Theatre of Maria Irene Fornes (Smith & Kraus, 1999). Her translations are collected in Federico Garcia Lorca: Impossible Theater (Smith & Kraus, 2000). She is founder of the performance collective NoPassport.


town hall meeting summary
Name: Haley Thom
Date: //2003-09-22 14:40:16 :
Link to this Comment: 6568

Town Hall: Impressions from the Sideline

We did not do break out groups, but remained together for the conversation following the "sharing" by faculty, staff and students. What struck me most was how often people characterized identity as an unfixed, permeable, dialogic and relational.

_The larger group conversation began with a Puerto Rican student (young man) with cerebal palsy who wasn't born on the island expressing his sadness, frustration and anger at how difficult it has been to relate to other students from PR who were born on the island.

_Several folks raised the point that they and lots of other students didn't become conscious of their race until their environment changed and that in the process of coming into that consciousness they've encountered stereotypes. Some have resolved that folks can't be blamed for what they don't know and we owe it to ourselves as a community to try to re-learn/unlearn what we thought we know about Others. One student pointed out that you can hold people accountable for not trying to know, particularly since ostensibly students have come to BMC to know more and know differently.

_ A first-year McBride talked about the fact that when she was 18, having grown up in the projects, she was steered toward vocational school. Tonight, she knows that she belongs here—and she is very convincing—and that she is willing and able to share what she's learned with the rest of us and learn from us. "It's all about give and take," she says.

_A staff member talked about the differences within ethnic/racial groups and cultures; and shared the suggestion that we ought to talk to community about the fact that diversity relates to, has impact for white people too

_A junior questioned what the institutional commitment is to addressing homophobia, sexism, classism and racism in the classroom, in the curriculum. She wanted to know whether and how we could create spaces in class and elsewhere that address/confront these issues honestly. She wondered further whether and where there is space to become both critical and conscious, to engage conflict around what it costs and accomplishes to really shape, work toward a diverse community at Bryn Mawr.

_ A freshman expressed disappointment that more students didn't come tonight. She asserted that customs people actively undermined freshman attendance at the pluralism workshops and the Town Hall and that the HAs don't support these initiatives either. She suggested that perhaps there ought to be curricula changes/mandates to ensure that the entire community be forced to engage these issues

_A student of color expressed optimism about her experiences here and the programming this year and suggested that we ought to take up the mantle of bringing a friend to these activities.

_Another student pointed out that engaging in these conversations is a risk, that we are asking people give up something and that there needs to be some kind of support and nurture in the wake of that jettisoning of privilege.

_A student from the West coast suggested that it is up to "white people" to get "white people" moving and to get them/us mobilized in these spaces and places around issues of difference, whatever they might be

_Race remained the pre-dominate focus of the conversation, but some of the evening did touch on religion, sexuality, class, language, and physical ability.

_ The evening ended with a student attempting to speak to the idea of why more "white people" aren't here. She was followed by a professor stressing that the evening's exchange of ideas wasn't and shouldn't be solely about race or sexuality or class and that diversity of all sorts is necessary for beauty, for becoming, for vibrancy. He suggested that message might help people understand why it is valuable for them to be here with us.


Diversity
Name: Ginny Cost
Date: //2003-09-23 00:04:53 :
Link to this Comment: 6578

I am so happy to learn that the issue of diversity is alive and well at Bryn Mawr. I first became aware of how it feels to be different when I gave bith to my Downs-Syndrome child. It was a different kind of diversity than we are accustomed to discussing, but the discrimination felt the same to me. From that moment on I felt the need to include everyone in my world. A few years ago I started a group for women called Futures For Women. Sixty percent of the women are from other countries. All different socio-economic levels, shapes, sizes, colors and preferences. The group happens to be an investment club. I started an investment club because women generally are not taught to take care of themselves financially. But, the important part to all of us is our diversity. We have learned so much that is real about each other. One of my friends is from Iraq and this is a particularly difficult time for her now. It is great that BMC is committed to this very important issue.


Harm-Reduction, Risk-Taking and "Bloodchild"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-09-26 18:40:10 :
Link to this Comment: 6641

So...

it was a very small group (Ted Wong, Sandy Schram, Paul Grobstein, Anne Dalke) who gathered this afternoon to "make sense of diversity" with the help of Octavia Butler's short story "Bloodchild"(1984). But the worth of the conversation, for me @ least, was in inverse proportion to our numbers (see elsewhere for the complicated relationship between quantification and value!)

I'd prepared some comments, some of which I shared (and which I record below, in case the archive may be of further use...) but the conversation ranged far beyond them, to questions of

  • the concept of harm reduction, as a guiding idea for "good social work, " for "resistance to power"

  • what its relationship might be to risk-taking, especially to the sort of intellectual risk-taking which some of us encourage in our students: are these two ideas/ideals inversely related to one another? or do they consitute entirely separate axes?

  • whether questions of "cost" and "value" are useful in exploring the question of campus "investment" in diversity: are people disinclined to participate in conversations and activities because they are "too costly"? or rather because they don't see "enough benefit" from doing so?

  • or is "cost assessment" not a useful rubric in this realm?

  • is diversity more "sale-able"--and more useful as a concept--if we conceptualize it individually/personally or institutionally/globally?

  • do we value our relationships with others because of our affinities/likenesses/deep connections to them, or because of the differences between us?

  • how primary is"safety" as a value in these explorations?

  • how compelling is the argument from self-interest?

  • if we minimize in-group variants, do we/can we best maximize between-group variants?

  • another way of asking the same question: what are the optimal strategies for a group to get the highest diversity of choices when (for instance) ordering a range of dishes in a Chinese restaurant?

  • of what significance might it be that the (human) characters in Butler's short story have Chinese names?

This conversation wove into and out of the remarks I'd prepared ahead of time....

I'd picked "Bloodchild" to anchor this session (and recommended it several years ago to the deans planning the pluralism workshop for first-year students), because I thought it might be a way of getting us beyond the by-now so-predictable menu of race/class/ethnicity/sexual orientation/religion/physical/mental ability, particularly the difference of race, and most particularly the binary of black-white . . . all of which I hoped would be preparatory to looping back to such matters.

In her commentary on The Left Hand of Darkness, "Is Gender Necessary?" Ursula LeGuin talks about science fiction as a heuristic device, a thought-experiment: "The experiment is performed, the question is asked, in the mind . . . . [Science fiction is] simply a way of thinking. One of the essential functions of science fiction is question-asking: a reversal of habitual ways of thinking, metaphors for what our language has no words for as yet, experiments in imagination."

To me, the subject of Butler's experiment in "Bloodchild" looks something like this: because of our lifelong social conditioning, because of some genetic equipment we/I don't understand very well yet (structures built into the unconscious that incline us to take note of difference, to put others into categories that have an ideal, a norm, AND probably to prefer what is the same, familiar, known...) it's hard for us to see clearly both how USEFUL our differences can be to one another--and how bound up those usefulnesses are with the costs/dangers. I thought that re-figuring this dynamic with two alien species (one of which plants eggs inside the bodies of the others, where they grow into worms, then children, and where the host species is, in return, cared for, given a home) might help us break out of the habitual ways of talking about the costs and value of diversity on THIS planet/this campus...

In her "Afterword" to "Bloodchild," Butler calls it

  • a love story between two very different beings
  • a coming-of-age story in which a boy uses disturbing information to make a decision
  • her "pregnant man" story, in which a man becomes pregnant
    --not out of misplaced competition (to show he can do what women do),
    --not because he was forced, not even out of curiosity, but
    --as an act of love and
  • (most importantly for our purposes) as "a story about paying the rent": "about an isolated colony of human beings on an inhabited, extrasolar world . . . [who] have to make some kind of accomodation with their . . . hosts."
I thought the relevant question here is Butler's asking what WE have that we could "trade for a liveable space on a world not our own?" Or, as the August 15, 2003 Chronicle article, "Ten Questions College Officials Should Ask About Diversity," asks, "When will this be my campus, instead of someone else's campus that is trying to be a welcoming place for me?" What does each of us have to do (what do we have to contribute AND what accommodations do we have to make) to make this planet--that is, this campus--our own home, our liveable space?

I also saw a number of the earlier entries on this on-line forum as anticipating some of the key themes in Butler's story:

  • Haley posted, after our town hall, about the responsibility of confronting "what difference can cost and engender," and called us not to be silent about need to address those costs
  • Paul wrote about other side: how valuable our differences are to one another, how together we can create things that none of us could create alone (Butler's story is a very clear and very creepy example of that!)
  • Chelsea described an example of this from Giles Deleuze's essay "Rhizome vs. Trees." When a wasp lands on an orchid, it is no longer just a wasp but a "becoming-orchid"; the orchid is also changed by the encounter, is "becoming-wasp": all are connected, and all altered by those connections.

    Something very similar--and much more troubling--happens in Butler's story, with the strong added detail that the young boy, Gan, decides to let himself be impregnated, NOT to kill himself but to be used: first to protect his sister, secondly because he loves his alien protector/caretaker, but/and also--most importantly, I think--because HE GETS SOMETHING OUT OF IT: because self-interest is served.

    My next question, I guess, is what the relation of self-interest is to love...

    anyone want to bite into THAT apple?


real love
Name: Sandy Schr
Date: //2003-09-29 10:20:17 :
Link to this Comment: 6671

Christ chose to die for our sins. He committed the ulitmate act of real love. Now we can say it was in his self-interest (i.e., he did become more famous than anyone could possibly imagine at the time). This of course assumes he had a choice as the son of God to decide his fate. But then again, as the son of God, he probably did not have much choice since this was his lot in life to tell people that God loved them. Real love therefore probably is not something based in self-interest and it is not something we choose. It is our destiny as human beings to love one another...regardless of whether we believe in God or not. Diversity is not a choice, it is our lot in life. We do not choose it out of self-interest or because it is valuable or because we like it. We don't choose diversity as much as diversity chooses us. Diversity is us. To deny it is to deny who we are in all our incomprehensibility. You can't count it so as to be able to give a commodifiable value. You can, however, count on it...always being there whether we want to recognize it or not.


biting the apple...i think
Name: Chelsea
Date: //2003-09-30 02:40:45 :
Link to this Comment: 6700

ok, anne, i'll bite. what is the relationship between love and self-interest? did the impregnated boy get something out of it (was self-interest served or was love)? if i have the questions right...

sometimes self-interest and love are the same thing. i think it happens a lot more than we'd like to admit because we are taught that self-interest is unfailingly bad. if you love someone and they love you, then you (tend to) desire that they be happy; to this end, you may do things out of character in order to please or cajole. However, if asked by an outsider who knows you out of "relationship" context why you do things which are so obviously atypical, you'd most likely say because your greatest joy derives from making another happy. Sure. But that means your happiness is dependent upon theirs therefore any action you take to please them ulitmately pleases yourself.

did the boy get something out of it? of course. he got the satisfaction of knowing he performed a needed task and was able to protect someone he loved...but he also got the satisfaction of seeing his value to those he loved heightened. his self-sacrifice made him dearer to those he wished desperately to be loved by and therefore allowed for a validation of his existence- purpose and value. so...both were served. his love for others was served, but so was the interest he had in making a larger, more permenant impact upon the lives of others.

what does this say about diversity? that we want it out of genuine good intentions to help others...but that we also want it to feel better about ourselves?! don't dismiss it entirely...especially if you've ever heard someone defended an accusation of prejudice by saying, "some of my best friends are_____ (black/latin/asian/gay/bi/insert label here)?" personally, i have to say that no matter what underlying reasons bring it, an understanding of and committment to issues of diversity can never fail to have positive impacts in the lives of all of us.

thoughts??


and...
Name: Chelsea
Date: //2003-09-30 09:55:09 :
Link to this Comment: 6707

ok, a couple more thoughts i wanted to keep separate from the response to
anne...and an apology for typos as it's awfully late(early?!).


in english 250 the other day...again...juana rodriguez made the very
interesting comment that we tend to think of our lives in a linear way- we
have moved past "inferior" stages and PROGRESSED to more superior ones.
however, what have we LOST by doing this? what did we have when we were
supposedly "lacking" that we lack now? a lot of people have made the
comments that they were "race blind" until a very specific turning point in
their lives, usually around middle school. Have we forgotten that blindness isn't always bad? have we lost, by growing older and "seeing the world" the absolute wonder of discovery and joy we took in others for reasons we'll never again understand?

paul grobstein said something to me the other day about the ways in which (i think it was) balance and change can be approached, which seemed really
important to have up here. there's the "we should change everything around
us so the information we're processing is different" approach, and
the "wouldn't it be easier to change the way we perceive and respond to that information" approach. the latter seems a more easten way of thinking and the former a westerner's idea. perhaps because we are products of the world around us, we are seeking to MAKE ourselves more diverse- change the numbers, change the look, change the appearance of our institution to the outside world. of course we have to do that to be considered "successful" in today's world...we must function, at least for now, in accordance with our environment- but we can start the ball rolling on wide sweeping changes which will change that environment by starting here with what we have- ourselves. if we can focus not on the statistics of diversity at our school so much as the environment within each of us that we provide FOR that diversity, than we will already have succeeded, and the statistics and appearances will take care of themselves.


Bryn Mawr and beyond ....
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-10-06 17:43:26 :
Link to this Comment: 6812

I spent this past weekend at a conference at Rowan University on "Ensuring the Success of Under-Represented Groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Learning Environments" sponsored by Project Kaleidoscope . And was struck by the significance of what I learned there for our own conversation and of our own conversation for what was going on there.

I gave at the meeting a presentation along these lines, called "One Man's Story of Learning Through Diversity" that people here might be interested in. And I invited people in the meeting to join our on-line conversation here if they were inclined.

Is an important conversation, both here and elsewhere. And sharing experiences here and elsewhere can help us all "get it less wrong".


essay on sense of belonging
Name: Itzick Vat
Date: //2003-10-07 00:48:58 :
Link to this Comment: 6817

I wanted to read more about other people thoughts whether a need for belonging is a basic human need. I could not resist a bad habit so I "googled" it. The first URL that popped up is very interesting and thought provoking (personally for me it is more interesting because of its source-- I am an Israeli)

http://www.payvand.com/news/02/aug/1021.html


follow up to chelsea
Name: Mary Crowe
Date: //2003-10-09 12:32:46 :
Link to this Comment: 6863

Chelsea

As a participant in the PKAL assembly last weekend, I found your comments insightful. Especially after Cathy Middlecamps talk about flipping the question around rather than what does science have do to w/diversity instead ask, what does diversity have to do w/science. Ways of approaching a question, topic, content can all be profoundly effected if we switch the question around

I look forward to future online conversations


color crossing
Name: Jan Trembl
Date: //2003-10-11 16:27:11 :
Link to this Comment: 6882

This link is to a sidebar from an article in the Alumnae Bulletin several years ago on one of our graduate alumnae, Grace Lee Boggs, Ph.D. '40 (philosophy) who has worked for decades as an activist in numerous grassroots movements, particularly black liberation (and is still going strong in Detroit).

I wanted to draw particular attention to the last paragraph on Amerasia Journal's challenge and the comments of Arif Dirklik (Duke U, historian of China) on political commitments in general and political commitments that are constrained in their vision by ethnic interests and an ethnic vision of politics.


Identity or Category?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-10-11 19:03:44 :
Link to this Comment: 6883

I was quite heartened by the energy and honesty of our discussion of "Asian: Identity or Category?" on Friday afternoon, Oct. 10. Many thanks to Angus Smith, Jan Trembley, Paul Grobstein, Rosi Song, Hayley Thomas, Misa Fujimura-Fanselow, Carol Chou, Nell Anderson and Ted Wong for attending and contributing....

to a conversation which began w/ the first chapter of Frank Wu's Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. Wu describes a number of ways in which "the spokesman can become the stereotype," his own "unqualified sense of being a fraud," the "illusion of representation" which occurs when one takes on--as one must--the "responsibility of speaking for oneself." He also describes the necessity of "calling people on their unconscious errors." Ted used Wu's text as a stepping-off point to ask a number of provocative questions:

  • is there an Asian cultural identity, shared by Asians and Asian-Americans?
  • do Asian-Americans have a stake in and claim to that identity through their cultural heritage?
  • do we get to be proud of that identity?
  • Do we have to be ashamed of it (and all historical activities performed by those sharing it)?
  • what do we think about the concept of the Asian-American "model minority" being used as a "weapon" to criticize the performance of other minority groups?
  • in what ways does the racialized experience of Asian-Americans differ from that of other ethnic groups?
  • in what ways do the experiences of individual Asian-Americans differ from others grouped into that category?

During the discussion which followed, we observed that characterizing an ethnic group is to homogenize or "lump together" individuals who differ from one another in many ways. Many of us acquire ethnic identities when others attribute them to us and those attributions may often not "map" onto what we ourselves feel. Creating categories are often the way people deal with otherness: "everything foreign is somebody else's version of the world." There was considerable debate among us about whether individuals are always free to resist or affiliate with that sort of "racializing" or "otherizing" by others. One can occupy a category without choosing to (since there are visible racial markers); one can also be taken as "representing" a category that actually doesn't "fit." There are also internal pressures to assume a racialized identity, which can bring (a-symmetrically for different races) both benefits and costs. Categories always occur in social-economic contexts, and are always political.

To choose to relate to a racial category or not is an informed decision, the kind of empowerment that can be learned at a liberal arts college. It was suggested that if we get to know one another well enough, each of us will cease to "represent" any category larger than our individual selves; it was also suggested, contrari-wise, that individual identities are inseparable from group attributes, entirely contingent on our dyadic relationships with others. Questions were also asked about college diversity efforts: why do the "college-cranking machines" that are high schools package students into certain categories? Why do schools like Bryn Mawr chose to court certain categories of difference?

On Monday, October 20th @ 7:30 in Thomas 224, Dvora Yanow will be speaking about "Category Errors and Race-Ethnic Identity." Her book on Constructing "Race" and "Ethnicity" in America: Category-Making in Public Policy and Administration speaks directly to these matters, and ends with a call for a national, public converation on the purpose of counting, on the kinds of traits that need to be counted, for what ends. Can we establish different "category sets" to meet different social justice criteria? For further discussion about the reasons which may underlie our categorizing practices, see also "What Counts?"


The Rebel
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-10-12 11:29:58 :
Link to this Comment: 6884

It was indeed a rich conversation. My thanks too to Ted for triggering it, and to all involved for building on that starting place.

The issue of the relationship between individual and "racialist" or "tribal" identities has been on my mind for a long time, and is important in lots of contexts, including current concerns about US foreign policy and the nature and significance of college education. And central to this issue is the question of whether individuals are or are not "free" to accept or decline "racialist/tribal" identities.

I realized after the conversation that my personal touchstone in dealing with this question is Albert Camus and his book The Rebel (others who come to my mind are Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Erich Fromm in a book called Escape From Freedom). I don't have my copy of The Rebel at hand and think I can find a better quotation but this one, found on the web, will do to illustrate Camus' argument (and, in their differing ways, those of the others):


The rebel undoubtedly demands a certain degree of freedom for himself; but in no case, if he is consistent, does he demand the right to destroy the existence and the freedom of others. He humiliates no one. The freedom he claims, he claims for all; the freedom he refuses, he forbids everyone to enjoy. He is not only the slave against the master, but also man against the world of master and slave. Therefore, thanks to rebellion, there is something more in history than the relation between mastery and servitude. Unlimited power is not the only law. It is in the name of another value that the rebel affirms the impossibility of total freedom while be claims for himself the relative freedom necessary to recognize this impossibility.

Yes, of course, individuals are under pressure, to varying degrees, to conceive themselves in racialist/tribal terms. And that pressure comes both from groups who treat individuals as "alien" or "different", and from groups who want to claim individuals as part of themselves. And there are indeed reasons why one might "want to" or "choose" to affiliate with a group. Neither American cuture, nor any other that I know of, is a "level playing field", and group identification can often achieve desirable things that cannot be achieved by individuals acting alone. But there are also costs, both individual and cultural, in racialism/tribalism: in particular the hazard of contributing to the disabling of others and, more generally, of endorsing and sustaining (however unintentionally) "a world of master and slave".


Do we have "total freedom" to choose whether to identify ourselves in racialist/tribal terms or not? No, of course not. But we do have "relative freedom". We are not ONLY the products of the forces impinging on us; we have the capacity to identify such forces (including perhaps our own inclinations to seek security in tribal participation), to think about the pros and cons of allowing them to influence our actions, and then to act as we think best ("I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am"). We are NOT "slaves", unless we choose to be, and we need not accept "a world of master and slave" unless we choose to.


We may yet to have seen a culture of any other kind, but we can conceive one and that's the first step in bringing one into existence ...


The rebel undoubtedly demands a certain degree of freedom for himself; but in no case, if he is consistent, does he demand the right to destroy the existence and the freedom of others. He humiliates no one. The freedom he claims, he claims for all; the freedom he refuses, he forbids everyone to enjoy.

Not a bad starting point, perhaps?


Pressure for diversity
Name:
Date: //2003-10-12 13:03:35 :
Link to this Comment: 6886

What a way to start a Sunday morning... I don't think my morning coffee was strong enough for this discussion, but anyhow, here it goes...

Reading the recap of Ted's question provided by Anne (thanks Anne!), I was finally able to see why I was a bit uneasy with them when they were first posed by our moderator. And later, reading Paul's comment about the idea of "the rebel" and the continuing idea of the capacity (or freedom, be that total or relative) of individuals to accept/reject the individual or collective pressure to accept one's culture or identity, I remembered a common perspective about diversity issues that questions the whole idea of the articulation of collective identities (or the pressure to form them) within institutions.

If you read back the questions, except maybe one, the responsibility to bring forth issues of diversity always falls on the minority group. That is, to negotiate his/her heritage in terms of embracing it or rejecting it, finding a common ground, establishing a space within an institution for discourse, being in charge of commemorative months, etc. etc. While all this, I recognize, works for the benefit of the minority group, the institutions (such as, for example, a liberal arts college where students will hopefully "learn" to make an informed decision about their racial identity and cultural heritage) that provide spaces and funding for this discussions, somehow keep it separate from the main discourse, and somehow bear no responsibility in the way diversity affects the institution. It is not a broad approach that tackles the issue in a structural way, rather keeps the discussion going among a group that is small and as the name indicates, "minor", while it hopes that this discussion will bring forward "changes" within institutions. From this perspective, the success or failure to negotiate difference will always be, to an extent, an individual one. In that case, is it really fair to talk about personal choices and freedom to do so? If all individuals do choose not to embrace their heritage/racial diversity, how can one keep that criticism to the individual level and not talk about the collective?

I think that the uncomfortability that writers such as Wu and other Asian-Americans (or other minority labeled and seen as "representatives" of their group)talk about has to do with this responsibility. If it all falls on their shoulders, and even if it is an individual choice/decision and it will be seen and read within a larger context, how can they feel free to say/write about their diversity in an honest way without hurting or affecting others? The representational value that these people have is beneficial to a certain degree (I think here of Said's take on intellectuals), but their uneasiness in assuming this position speaks to the paradox of the position of the minority group dealing with a majority group, where change has to come from the former while being precisely part of it is what prevents them from having any meaningful agency.


Ooops -- that was...
Name:
Date: //2003-10-12 13:04:23 :
Link to this Comment: 6887

Ooops, that anonymous post above was me, Rosi.


useless classification?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-10-12 14:39:40 :
Link to this Comment: 6889

Our conversation is taking place across the country. This week's Chronicle of Higher Education (10/10/2003) has a news item, "Use of Racial Data Faces an Uncertain Future in California." On the California ballot last week was a measure, known as Proposition 54, that proponents say "would help end...the government's divisive and largely useless practice of classifying people by race and ethnicity....but many higher-education officials, faculty members, and students say that ...in order to achieve equal access to higher education...colleges and states need to track and monitor disparities among different groups."


Greetings from California!
Name: Dvora Yano
Date: //2003-10-14 14:11:56 :
Link to this Comment: 6897

Wow! I'm truly amazed at the conversation you apparently had on Oct. 10 (Sandy Schram forwarded me the link to this page).

Yes, California had Prop. 54, which, had it passed (it went down at around 60/40; I need to check the actual numbers), would have made a real 'stew' out of data collection in the state. Nonetheless, I think Ward Connerly, the initiator of the proposition, started a needed conversation -- though I suspect it will fade from focus quite quickly (until he regroups and introduces the next iteration, which he has said he will do after consultation with medical professionals, who opposed the measure in great numbers).

In any event, I am looking forward to being on campus next Monday. Perhaps I will see some of you at my presentation that evening (I will be addressing many of the issues you raised in your discussion).

With best wishes,
Dvora Yanow
(Visiting Scholar, Center for the Study of Law and Society, UC Berkeley;
Professor, Dept. of Public Administration, Calif. State U. Hayward)


diversity conversation
Name: Serendip
Date: //2003-10-20 21:52:11 :
Link to this Comment: 6926

Professor Jody Cohen (Education department) and I, Paula Arboleda,
would like to invite you to a diversity conversation that we are co- facilitating on Fri. Oct. 24 from 3 - 4 pm in the Multicultural Center, located on Roberts Road.

The session will focus on the experiences of current freshwomen at BMC. We are aware that this is an intense transition time that comes with various complications, difficulties, and issues. Therefore, rather than putting diversity as the upfront issue in this context, we are sure that this IS a diverse group of women along many dimensions and diversity will naturally be a part of the conversation.

We are inviting all students, faculty, and staff who are interested in
attending to conduct a small piece of field research before the session:

Ask three current freshwomen (and make it people that you don't already know well) to tell you about their experience at BMC so far. This piece of smal field research will be essential to this conversation, but don't be discouraged from coming, if you did not do it.

Finally, and after some conversation about what it's like for freshwomen and after hearing from freshwomen themselves, we want to move to the following question: How are we actors here and how can we implement needed change?

Please attend this conversation, invite your friends, hallmates, customs people etc, faculty please encourage other faculty to attend and to advertise this talk in the classes etc.

Your attention and efforts are appreciated,

See you on friday Oct 24, at 3pm in the MCC,


where to start? category, identity, race, and soci
Name: natalie
Date: //2003-10-20 22:25:07 :
Link to this Comment: 6927

Of course leaving the lecture "Category Errors & Race-Ethnic Identity: Classification by Administrative Practice" I was enflamed, perhaps it was because so many questions were left unanswered. Perhaps I am frustrated because the fact that race and ethnicity are interchangeable in our world today is because of politics and the values those in power have attached to these words. It is also disturbing that at the same time an individual naturally has an affinity toward certain "categories", (i.e. Afro-American, Latino, Hispanic...) same natural and useful categories, which enable a person to find their identity in this world, can be used, rather misused by the state or in collecting statistics clumping of different origins under the umbrella of "whiteness" or any of the other 4 categories of "race" found in the consensus. The interchangeability of the words race and ethnicity in our popular discourse utterly confuse me. For if I were to fill in a bubble on the SAT Test, for example, I would be "forced" to darken "white", but I do not identify myself as such even though my skin color may cause this presumption. Yes I am American, but my parents come from the Middle East. I also felt that those of Middle Eastern origin were clumped with "white" for reasons I do not really understand. I find it interesting that originally the number of ethnicities in the consensus grew as a result of nations who the US warred against. And there are many conflicts which continue to this day in the Middle East and still that geographic area disappears under "white" according to statistics. It was also disturbing to hear at the end that it would help if we just used Bostonian or Californian or Appalachian as categories and effacing the whole issue of how long or how many generations a person or family has lived in the states. The national origin stories express the importance of time and space which is inherent when it comes to race and ethnicity. Does using regional American state terms not in away remove or cause a person's immigrant identity to collapse? Place of origin is essential when talking about Americans since we proclaim that a real American is a "hyphenated one". Sorry for being so incoherent! Nonetheless I know that this lecture developed from a certain framing of questions but since my thought process can't stay put within one frame, I thank you for making me think about this and making me question our ability to affect change and bring social justice when looking at race and ethnicity in our world today.


more on diversity/categories
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-10-20 22:36:54 :
Link to this Comment: 6928

Very interesting and rich talk by Dvora Janow, and following discussion this evening. Dvora is from California, which just defeated a state proposition aimed at reducing collection of information about racial/ethnic identities. And she has just published a book called Constructing "Race" and "Ethnicity" in America: Category-Making in Public Policy and Administration. The talk (and book I presume) provide an important catalog of a number of the incoherences and problems associated with the public gathering of information about racial and ethnic identity. Dvora poses the question of what "logic" underlies such an incoherent set of practices, is concerned about its historical misuse, and strongly suggests that there is a need to reconceive categories in ways that relate more directly and specifically to legitimate public policy objectives (I hope I have this right, and that someone, perhaps even Dvora will correct me otherwise).

I have no quarrels with Dvora's principal message, and think it an important one. But there were some interesting issues raised in the discussion that I think are worth some attention as well. One is that "racial" identities are not actually quite as incoherent as people frequently assert they are. Though subsequently tarred by "racist" identifications of difference with inferiority, in broad terms "racial" categories DO relate to "origins", ie to broad migration patterns of groups of humans out of Africa at different times and in different directions. Moreover they do still have some use, insofar as differences in skin color reflect different gene frequency distributions in different populations and these are known to involve genes other than those directly involved in determining skin color.

My point is that, at some levels at least, "race" is not ONLY a "social construction" and it has, for some purposes at least (eg for epidemiological work), substantial significance. It MAY, as Dvora argues, be necessary to throw out the baby with the bath water to ovecome the historical tendency to identify race with entitlement and disentitlement, but I'd like to think we can outgrow (out educate) the latter without losing the benefits of being able to acknowledge difference itself.

Along these lines, its relevant that efforts to abolish the collection of information about racial identity in California were motivated not by an interest in "social justice" (at least as a leftist like me and, I believe, Dvora would understand it) but rather as a continuation of efforts to abolish affirmative action. So one might, however much one is concerned about misues of racial identification, argue that it needs to be kept in some form because we are still dealing with the effects of genuine "racism". In addition, some people in fact take personal pride/pleasure in their racial identity, and might see efforts to eliminate racial identities (particularly when promoted by people of a dominant race) as an attack on their own identity/values.

As I said at the outset, a rich evening, and a wonderful addition to our diversity conversations. As well as to a parallel conversation this afternoon in the brown bag forum that Dvora participated in. Pleased to have her here, and my thanks as well to others at her talk this evening for a productive discussion.


Changing The Narratives our Categories Tell About
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-10-21 18:56:50 :
Link to this Comment: 6939

I am also grateful to Dvora Yanow for spending some time on the Bryn Mawr campus yesterday, and contributing to conversations occuring here in a range of venues, including this discussion of "Making Sense of Diversity" and another increasingly-related one on "What Counts? The faculty seminar which she conducted yesterday afternoon highlighted a number of ideas from her book which I find very useful for local purposes, and so want to record here.

Dvora's helpful distinction between "self-identification" and the "undifferentiated lumpiness" that is a stereotype became complexified in our conversation. How obligatory are our "hyphenations"? Is there a significant divide between those who have a choice to occupy a given category and those who don't? Aren't the ever-finer categories we now have available the result of numerous movements for recognition? Given the choice to self-identify, how many census respondents (for instance) would use the state's categories (those which valorize racial difference or geographical origin) rather than identities which operate on entirely different axes, such as "pianist"? Might the inclination to use more idiosyncratic identifiers change, over generations of being invited to name your own category, of being educated and encouraged to consider what is really relevant to your own purposes?

Categories are always-imperfect, always-inaccurate, but also always-necessary and inevitable ways of framing the world, of highlighting some aspects of it while putting others in the shadows. Dvora's interesting work of "category analysis" asks repeatedly: "same or different with regard to WHAT?" WHY do we valorize certain categories (in the U.S. census: color, country, culture) over others, given the wide range of ways in which we can distinguish one from another? Each category structure tells a narrative. Why is it that Americans (at least in our census records) care so much about place of origin? Is asking "where do you come from?" a way of saying, "You don't belong?"

Most useful to me was Dvora's suggestion that we can be more reflective about extrapolating from one set of categories, designed for one set of purposes, to another. I found it particularly helpful, in the faculty seminar, to think together w/ her about what categories are needed for specific contexts. Might each college, for instance, make up its own set of relevant categories for underrepresented populations?

What do we want to know? What do we need to know? What is the best way to get there? And what are the most useful categories for helping us do so?


missing
Name: Hayley Tho
Date: //2003-10-22 16:34:02 :
Link to this Comment: 6954

I'm so sorry to have missed Dvora Yanow's presentation. Sounds like it was illuminating and provocative and necessary. I tend to be bi-polar about calls to jettison 'racial' and ethnic categories (especially by those of us who, for various reasons, are in some position to enact, as well as contemplate, that level of agency).

I wonder which me would have shown up at her talk? The me that lives, as countless others do, in/with in-betweenness, hybridity, and promiscuous subjectivities. Or the me that lives in my body, my skin, with my nose, my hair, all subject to Other(s) readings and agencies.

Can't know now, but looking forward to seeing which self emerges during Friday's conversation @ the MCC.

See y'all there.

Hayley



Name: Maria
Date: //2003-10-22 21:24:14 :
Link to this Comment: 6959

I attended Dvora Yanow's lecture on Tuesday and as a freshman some of the charts and data that she presented went slightly over my head, but the underlying issues, as I understood them, were interesting and quite relevant to the world as it is developing around us. The issue that I found most interesting (or perhaps that I was able to best understand) is the question of whether collecting data on people which catagorizes them according to race is possible without also accepting and condoning the value judgements that are attached to those same race-labels. It would seem to me to be truly unfortunate if we did indeed have to sacrifice all of the useful and valuable information that individual's race can provide (in areas like medicine where they exist without any value judgements attached) becasue as a society we are not able to see the flaws in our perceptions of race. I feel a bit underqualified to voice a judgement on this as I'm not a doctor or scientist who can with any credibility support the assertion that there is value in race/ethnicity related data and as a caucasian I've never personally experienced the type of racism that exists in part as a result of the negative connotations implicit in racial catagories. Because being caucasian has few connotations that are negative in the same sense that some minority labels are, there is no downside to being categorized as "white". The question of whether we can overcome the current value-judgements that "piggy-back" in on terms such as "Black" or "Mexican" is somewhat up in the air.


diversity conversation
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-10-24 16:49:54 :
Link to this Comment: 6992

Thanks to Jody and Paula, and everyone participating, for a very rich and encouraging conversation this afternoon. My take home message was that we need to see each other more fully, appreciate each person's uniqueness, and allow ourselves to be changed by each other. And so it was, for me at least. I learned a lot more about many of you (thanks for being willing to show me), and will carry the traces with me (thanks for that as well).

I think we do indeed need the engaged commitment to change of both individuals and institutions. Bryn Mawr, like all cultures (see Culture as Disability has a tendency to create "customs" that, without any individual intending it, cause some individuals to feel less welcome. We could change some of that if we made "Customs Week" a time not of transmission of "what you need to know to survive" to new community members but instead a time of negotiation between older and new community members of wished for customs over the next period of time. This would be a concrete way of saying to new community members that we value you for your differences and want their expression to help build a stronger institution.

Hoping very much we can continue this conversation, in the spirit of today. Its an important one not only for Bryn Mawr but for educational institutions nationwide, and for rethinking what we represent both as a nation and as citizens of the world. Thanks again for the encouragement to believe such rethinking can indeed be done.


How are we actors here?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-10-24 21:55:36 :
Link to this Comment: 6994

In response to Jody and Paula's query, this afternoon, "What is it like being a freshman here?" I was struck by two (contradictory?) themes: first, a range of accounts of the "very isolating" feeling of being a first-year student @ Bryn Mawr, the sense of "being overwhelmed with a lack of self-definition," of self-doubt, of "feeling like you are from a different place," of thinking that asking for help would constitute an admission that "you don't fit in."

Running against these repeated testimonies to "feeling different," I heard a second strong theme: a dislike of the assumption that one was NOT different from others (particularly when the association was with "something you can't hide," like race): that is, a dislike of being responsible, whenever one spoke, for representing a group larger than oneself.

When Jody asked, "what would it look like to have a more welcoming customs group?" I heard these two themes merge into a single answer: the agreement seemed to be that what we need is a set of traditions that both acknowledge

  • differences among individuals and
  • (as Paula said, what the "immigrant mentality" knows:)
    that "you change and are changed by interactions w/ others."

I found it particularly helpful when Sandy suggested that we think about BMC customs as an anthropologist might: as "rites of passage," ritual practices in which one learns to be an adult, not simply by being taught a particular set of traditions, but by learning how to negotiate one's relation to the structure of the institution, and so make peace with it. Customs, in other words, don't have to be rules we learn to conform to, but rather practices in which we can re-negotiate the terms of this community . "Passport week" can become a time when, rather than "being given the equipment one needs to survive @ Bryn Mawr," we can initiate both institutional and individual change. Customs week can be both personal and collective action: not teaching first-years what they need to know, but inviting them to talk about both who they are and what customs they want to have, during the next four years. As Paul said, the exchange needs to--and can--be a reciprocal one.

Thanks to all who came to talk this afternoon: for taking the risk of speaking from your experience--and thereby contributing to the reciprocal exchange, to the evolution of this culture which belongs to us all.


deepening For this reason (among others) it seems to me useful to acknowledge (as we did) that most people (everybody?) experiences a sense of being "different", and is, to one degree or another at one point or another, made to feel uncomfortable about themselves because of that difference. What this suggests to me is that we have yet to achieve, at Bryn Mawr or in the nation or in the world, a genuinely pluralistic culture, one in which individuals are valued as much for their differences as for their similarities. And that seems to me what we should aspire to achieve at Bryn Mawr, both for ourselves and as a model for the world.

So, what's in the way? Mostly, I think, a sense in individuals of an unwillingness to be changed by other individuals, and cultural structures that support that reluctance (more for some groups of individuals than for others). As individuals we need to genuinely look forward to the changes in ourselves that will come from engagement with individuals different from ourselves. And we need collectively to notice and deliberately alter those cultural structures that cause some individuals to feel less symmetrically engaged in the processes of change.

If we genuinely value "diversity", we need to make it clear that we want in our community people different from ourselves, and want that not to help them change to become like ourselves but rather to share in a process of mutual change of value to everyone. And that, of course, means we need to be not only willing but enthusiastic about engaging in an unending process of "negotiation", one that will continually challenge and reshape not only individuals but the communities and institutions and nations of which they are members.

Its not an easy task. It requires a reorientation that will affect all aspects of our lives at Bryn Mawr, including (perhaps most importantly) how we understand the classroom and its objectives (cf

And we'll make mistakes along the way, since its a task for which we have no good historical precedents. But that's part of what makes it worthwhile, that we're all in it together. And if we can pull it off, we will have genuinely created something of great novelty and significance for not only ourselves but the human community as a whole. Let's go for it?



Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-10-26 09:57:10 :
Link to this Comment: 7000

Last night I attended a production, @ the Philadelphia Theater Company, of Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitizer-prize-winning play, TopDog/Underdog, which put me in mind of our discussion, last week, about the need both to assert who we are, as individuals, and (this was Paula's insight, so well articulated...) to be willing to step out of the spaces in which we are already comfortable, and be changed by our interactions with others who differ from ourselves. The play is about two African-American brothers whose father--as a joke (?)--named them "Booth and "Lincoln." Abandoned by both their parents, who resisted, for years, that "something outside, something better" which finally overcame their desires to keep a home and be at home, the boys for years helped each other along, helped each other survive. When the play opens, they are adults, both wrestling w/ questions of identity--trying to hustle, trying on a range of roles, attempting to find their way in the world. One of them is unemployed, an accomplished thief, practicing to become a card shark; the other works @ an arcade, dressed as Lincoln in white face, letting patrons "shoot" him all day. In the end, the brothers contribute to one another's self-destruction: in the play's (too-predictable, actually inevitable) conclusion, Booth shoots Lincoln. They do NOT escape the old script--largely, I was thinking (in the terms of our discussion) because the interaction between them (and their absent parents; and their employers and ladyfriends) is a closed loop; the feedback doesn't generate anything new for either of them. Neither is able to evolve, neither can switch out of the role he was assigned at birth. It is a sad play, full of pathos--not even tragedy (because neither of the brothers came to any self-awareness or understanding), and I found myself impatient w/ it, wanting to cry out, "Let us not be bound to the old accounts of who we think we are (much less: who our parents thought we might be...) Let us, by engaging w/ one another, write some newer, larger ones."


Participants on 10/24/03
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-10-27 14:46:53 :
Link to this Comment: 7009

The main reason our discussion on 10/24/03 was so productive was that there were so many of us there, willing to take the risk of saying what it felt like, on the inside, to feel that we were on the outside--which gave us all some ideas for how we might go about changing the outside.

Anyhow: here, for the archive, we are.


page has moved
Name: Serendip w
Date: //2003-10-27 15:52:59 :
Link to this Comment: 7011

October 24 Participants


Categorizing
Name: Dvora Yano
Date: //2003-10-27 21:36:55 :
Link to this Comment: 7019

Many thanks to all who posted comments on my presentations a week ago. It was not possible, in an hour (nor would it have been in two!), to touch on all the subjects I discuss in "Constructing 'race' and 'ethnicity' in America." Let me mention here, by way of response to the posts, some of the matters that I did not address.

What Natalie's comment brings out is that categories are created from a point of view. They do not just emerge out of the ether. As I studied the 5 OMB categories and their definitions, and their usages in the census and other administrative and policy practices, it became increasingly clear to me that the point of view embedded in that particular taxonomy is a man's -- in the book I called him Adam, after the narrative in Genesis in which God invites Adam to name the species "according to their kinds" -- and this Adam is resident in the East coast, perhaps as far west as Chicago. Note how many times, in the questionnaires we are asked to fill out, the categories are not given in alphabetical or historical order (two ways in which we signal "equality" when we list things). I asked myself what "authorial" point of view explained the common orders. This is part of what lends them coherence, although from other perspectives, they appear to be incoherent. You can find my reasoning in chapter 7.

One of the other matters that I did not touch on at all is the role of social scientists and applied social scientists (e.g., management consultants) in supporting present categories. I had expected that researchers would begin by defining their terms. I was amazed at how unreflectively social scientists proceeded in their use of the categories. Moreover, it is often statistical science that drives research reports, as when the numbers of, say, Native Americans are not sufficient to draw statistically significant conclusions, and so data from Native Americans are rolled in with (typically) European-Americans' data.

I thank Paul Grobstein for a succinct summary of my argument. The correction I would make is that I do not claim "misuse" of the categories. Rather, I am saying that increasingly since the 1980s, in a public way, growing numbers of individuals have given voice to the ways in which the categories do not fit their lived experiences -- their perceptions of themselves -- which leads them to feel that they need to force-fit themselves into one of the boxes.

Also, to clarify something mentioned by Natalie: my suggestion that we engage in a thought experiment around "Bostonian" or "Californian" or "Appalachian" or any other American-based category was just to suggest that that mental exercise might jog us loose from our well-entrenched modes of thinking about American race-ethnic categories. Part of the problem is, I think, that these categories have come to seem natural to us and they shape our thinking such that we have a hard time thinking in any other way. Yet, we DO have "indigenous" categories by which we name ourselves -- and we also discriminate along these lines (ask anyone who has been called "red neck" or "Okie" -- when the latter meant something).

What I am trying to suggest is that a strong interest in social justice does not have to mean accepting present-day categories 'just because they are there.' I do think that stigmatizing people as "category admits," for example, which undermines their sense of rightfully being there (wherever 'there' is -- university, apartment, job, etc.) itself undermines social justice. I would be surprised if we could ever get to a perfect set of categories: by definition, they leave things out as they highlight other elements. But if the present set is getting in the way of our justice aims, we should rethink what it is that we are after and if there is a better way to get there. I'll repeat my higher ed. example: if, indeed, Hmong and Laotians are presently and historically (within recent times) underrepresented, and an "Asian-American" category doesn't get them counted, wouldn't we want to change the category structure to achieve social justice aims? At this point in time, we may be beyond the "one category set fits all" social policy issues stage. I am raising the possibility that different policy issues might require different category sets, to reflect the "local knowledge" characteristic of each issue -- and also to suggest that rewriting the categories might be a stance of the left: it need not only be a move, as Paul notes, to further eradicate affirmative action. Indeed, I am arguing FOR taking actions affirmatively on behalf of those who are still not brought under the big tent (to mix a metaphor) by our existing categories.

Anne Dahlke's helpful summary and thoughtfully reflective questions made me realize how much I jumped at reading Paul's comment, "Dvora is from California." I am no Californian -- as most of my students will tell you :) ! I am a Bostonian, albeit from the suburbs there, with all that suggests about character traits (though not accent, to my father's chagrin). But I have been out here long enough to learn that the West coast perspective on US race-ethnicity is quite different from the East coast one I grew up with.

Just as a thought experiment, would it be worth thinking about knowing how many painters and pianists there are in the US? Might that knowledge (much more expanded than just those 2 entries), e.g., have helped with funding battles concerning the NEA? Does Bryn Mawr care, e.g., to have a balanced representation of soccer players and thespians? I take Hayley's wonderful post in this light. Aren't we all, in some way, in-betweens? And all, therefore, subject to Others' 'eyeballing'? We want to get away from the bias attached to some of these categories, as Maria notes. Maybe one way to further that is to let 1000 categories bloom -- the more we are cognizant of the range of 'otherness' among us, the more the stigmatizing wears off. (btw, Martha Minow has a wonderful book, called "Making All the Difference," on some of these same questions, in a legal context, with cases concerning education, child welfare, etc.)

Once again, my thanks to Sandy Schram for being such a wonderful host, to all of those I met for being so warmly welcoming, and to the post-ers here for allowing me to follow and engage the conversation even after leaving Bryn Mawr.

Yours,
Dvora Yanow


"In Living color: A Report on a Conversation, 11/7
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-11-08 16:33:38 :
Link to this Comment: 7155

This was Juana Rodriquez's invitation into the session on "Making Sense of Diversity" she entitled "In Living Color":

"What is the sensory experience of being at Bryn Mawr College? What impact do space, color, and images have on how we experience our sense of place, and our place within it? When we think about what kind of place we want Bryn Mawr College to be, what do our wishes look like? What might it mean to make our community's commitment to diversity--in all its forms--visual? I invite you to join me in a conversation where we explore these and other questions as part of the on-going campus dialogue on questions of diversity. We will meet this Friday. 3-4 p.m. in the Multi-Cultural Center. Everyone is welcome.

As a way to begin to imagine what it might mean to make our visions come to life, I encourage you to explore some of the following links that document how different communities have come together through mural making to create a lasting visual impression in their surroundings.

The Maestrapeace Mural on the Women's Building of San Francisco. Going to the on-line store and clicking on the note cards is a great way to see details of this incredible building:
http://www.maestrapeace.com/about/

Here is a link for the Great Wall of Los Angeles:
http://www.sparcmurals.org/product/greatwall/greatwallmain.html

Here is the link for the local Mural Arts Project based in Philadelphia:
http://www.muralarts.org/"

The participants in the November 7th conversation responded with enthusiasm to Juana's invitation, when we gathered in person, to take on the "beige-ness" that is Bryn Mawr. She asked us to think of designing a mural that would be "beautiful, but with an edge," to move beyond even the model of the Philadelphia Mural Project, which does a lot of community organizing work before putting up any new mural, but which also, because of its corporate sponsorship, needs to take care "not to offend." A possible consequence when the process of mural-making "gets institutionalized" is that the murals become "tame" representations of "harmony."

What would it mean to make our commitment to the politics of diversity visual on campus? What would happen if we brought the whole community together to think about how we want to represent ourselves?

  • Who is the mural for? Who determines the answer to that question? Alums? Staff? Students? Faculty?
  • This would be a hands-on project: who would do the painting?
  • Where would the mural be? Indoors or outdoors? On the periphery of campus, or its center? (The mural will be a physical fact, designed to change the physical space that is Bryn Mawr--shouldn't it occupy the center of campus? Wouldn't it defeat the purpose, if it were located in a peripheral space, such as the new student centers being renovated on Roberts' Road?)
  • Would we emphasize our complex history (representing an image runs the danger of creating something static) or our imagined future? (Static-ness is part of the longevity that sustains a place.)
  • Who might be erased, in this representation? (Who gets represented becomes also an index of who is excluded.)
  • What issues and what people would we want to foreground?
  • There are all kinds of diversity that--unlike race--are not visible: how would they be represented?
  • How would viewers know what they were looking at?
  • Would the mural make visible what is unsaid on campus?
  • Would we take the risk of representing both our diversity and our non-diversity--as a way to intervene in those patterns?

An aesthetic embodies the spirit of a space; this is a bucolic landscape: do we want to use a mural to make the conversation oppositional and subversive? Women of color are not part of the Bryn Mawr aesthetic--and yet they find themselves represented frequently: their faces are "used all the time" in the College's public presentation of itself (such as the College web pages). How to claim back that representation? Mention was made of an earlier discussion about the difficulties in getting underrepresented people into the sciences. Called "The Fable of the House," it evoked the need, when inviting different sorts of folks to engage in an educational project, both to "open the doors and windows" and to "allow everyone to have a role in furnishing it." To invite people in, then tell them to "behave" and "not to leave their fingerprints," will not lead to success.

Could we figure a more successful gesture if we made a mural of handprints, one that would be perpetually added to? Or perhaps one of lipprints? Or would that be shying away from the visual representation of people's difference? Are we talking about claiming and colonizing space, or just re-decorating? It will be decoration to any member of the campus community, unless she participates in the process of contributing to the project. Perhaps, rather than something painted on a wall, we would want to design a canvas, a tapestry of multimedia objects made up of different panels that would be added to by each generation of students. Mention was also made of Black Athena in Thomas Great Hall, who is always being "printed on" by personal things, offerings left by students that make this ostensibly classical image subversive.

How to make this not just a "memorial mural," but a living one? The meaning of the mural will change with time, because its readers will change; no text is ever dead. Marking one historical period would be to inspire another. Questions were asked about the intent of this project: is it to inform, educate, exclude, jar? The community has not decided on the intent, but many possibilities were explored. There was some insistence on the need to offend--on the trick of actually "finding a way to offend"--as a way of causing conversation. We need to "keep it offensive," because it is by contention that we create dialogue. But how will we negotiate the encounter of aesthetic choices with institutional imperatives (mention was made of the removal of the carved benches from their central site adjacent to the labyrinth to the periphery of the campus, near the pond). Should the mural appear on an existing building, or be freestanding?

Mention was made of Gods of the Modern World, one of the Orozco Frescoes at Dartmouth College, a shocking critique of academic sterility. Might we want a mural like that: one which represents what we do NOT want to be? Or a painting of what we do not want to admit we are? It was suggested that this was an emergent process: rather than saying what we want to be, we might continually note what we do not want to be. Perhaps the mural could be two-sided, representing the view both from outside and inside the "chastity belt" that is the closed campus of Bryn Mawr. Or perhaps it could take the form of a curved wall. Perhaps it could even be a moebius strip, in which the inside becomes the outside.

To insert a mural at Bryn Mawr would be to bring an urban aesthetic to a suburban landscape, one that is a negation of everything that is the city (one that even lacks sidewalks). Perhaps we would want to paint the mural ON a sidewalk, on a place that (like the labyrinth) that could be used, could be walked upon? Could the mural, like the labyrinth, become a visual representation of spirit, in a place where we are "supposed to be just minds," with no bodies? How to bring to Bryn Mawr other scenes of felt beauty?

Do we want to represent what we don't want, or what we want? Do we want to avoid claiming who we are? Part of this project would involve acknowledging who we have been, including all the contradictions in Bryn Mawr's tangled history. Jane Golden's Philadelphia murals are seen as marking areas of intense poverty (these are the areas which have organized for and received funding). The Philadelphia Mural Project fills up "empty spaces"; it was originally designed to cover over what local folks considered art (that is, it began as the Anti-Graffiti Network). Would we share in that ideological history of "covering over?"

This is a highly politicized act. Some students feel a "clenched fist" in coming into this place, into the vacuum that is the aesthetic of this place. Students from urban areas do not feel represented in the aesthetic of this place. What does it mean not to "see yourself" in the space where you live and work, to always see the lack? What would it mean to you to be represented, to make the mural a common text which all of us have written together, and which can continue to be written upon in the future? Could a mural be used to say, "these are my people? This is a constant shield, an acclaimation which tells me, 'I can sit here, with these images smiling on me, blessing me, telling me that my presence is necessary here, too'"?

We closed with some discussion of where the financial support for this project might come from. Could a senior class donate a mural as its class gift? This, too, would be a community development process. Might we approach alums in different formations than class years? (Mention was made of an alumni organization @ another college which offered financial support to students who had lost their parents' financial support when they came out during their college years). The development office would have to approve any attempts to raise money.

Juana ended the session with the exhortation to "talk up this project!" Let's see where this initiative might lead....


Racial-stereotype merry-go-round
Name: Ted Wong
Date: //2003-11-10 14:31:43 :
Link to this Comment: 7181

This blog entry by Matthew Yglesias describes results of a survey in which members of different racial groups were asked which other groups they felt most and least similar to.
Asians said they had the most in common with whites, but whites said they had the least in common with Asians and the most in common with African-Americans. Blacks, in turn, said they had the least in common with whites and the most in common with Latinos. Latinos, however, felt that they had the least in common with blacks. It would have been a perfect circle if Latinos had said they had the most in common with Asians, but they said they had the most in common with whites.
I haven't seen the original study (and Yglesias didn't have the reference handy when he wrote the entry), but I have to question the utility of such broad wording as most or least common with. Broad brushes have their uses, though, and I bet there's a lot there in terms of who's perceived as being foreign, who's perceived as having power, and who's perceived as being oppressed.


corrected link: Nov. 7 participants
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-11-13 08:00:27 :
Link to this Comment: 7245

The link above is incorrect.
These are the participants in the Nov. 7 conversation, "In Living Color."


on being offensive
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-11-15 22:06:02 :
Link to this Comment: 7267

I've been mulling over this matter of "offensiveness..."

weaving together three strands, thinking about-and-through

  • the insistence, during our discussion of In Living Color last week, of "the trick of finding a way to offend--as a way of causing conversation, needing to keep it offensive, because it is by contention that we create dialogue"...
  • the 11/13/03 Philadelphia Inquirer article entitled "Defending the Right to Offend," which says, in part, "When you hear speech you don't like the solution is to counter it with more speech. . . . Without intellectual diversity, the life of the mind is finished at a university . . . there is no such thing as a right not to be offended," and
  • my sense that the white Haverford men who dressed as naked black women for the Rhoads Halloween party INTENDED to offend (as Nancy Vicker's letter to the community about the larger, more pervasive issues played out in this incident observes, "These students were not the first to believe that performing derogatory stereotypes of one group or another is acceptable or even funny.")
SO: if "being offended" stops the conversation...what starts it again?
Or might we position this whole matter in an entirely different place, where intending to offend (or being careful not to) is not @ all the point? Perhaps what is important is knowing that (as we knew during the Civil Rights Movement, the women's movement, the Vietnam War protests and others since) that we have, and must claim, the
freedom to enact our convictions: who we are and what we believe...
then: if offense occurs, we need to talk.
But to offend, for the sake of offending--I'm not sure that gets us anywhere/thing.
Thoughts?
Anne


Forum with adminstration
Name: Paula Arbo
Date: //2003-11-16 21:22:05 :
Link to this Comment: 7277

BIG CHEESE, BIG FLOP

Paula Arboleda and Akudo Ejelonu

The Big Cheese was an attempt to bring the Big Cheeses together, to give students the opportunity to ask questions, to make important demands and inquiries, but, unfortunately, the Big Cheese was short of being anything big, of being anything great. We did have lots of cheese and crackers though.

Many students expressed concerns to the administrators about the quality of health and counseling services, about classes, diversity, financial aid, representation, and various other topics, but there was no sense of individual or collective responsibility by the administration for the things that are not going well, for the many instances where Bryn Mawr is not meeting student standards or its own. The Big Cheese was a forum where these administrative figures took two hours out of their lives to justify why they're falling short of our expectations. Their responses were evasive and direct at best; there was no sense of accountability.

As people who are supposed to be representative of the college and student well-being, we do not feel represented by them or their interests. Furthermore, many times the administration will market Mawrtyrs on brochures, websites, fund-raising campaigns as intelligent, driven outspoken actors of global change and these images work in their favor because it is easier to support the Mawrtyr who is active in so called global change than it is to support the Mawrtyr who is trying to positively change Bryn Mawr and its image.

So what solutions do we propose as students?
1. Improve sustained dialogue between administration, faculty, and students outside of SGA, and by dialogue, we do not mean two hours of self-praising questions and answers; instead, there needs to be a dialogue where the norm is that students, faculty, and administration ask difficult and demanding questions of each other.
2. Engaged a broader community. Even though SGA has had a history of being a functional representative body, a more recent in-depth look would suggest that most Bryn Mawr students do not feel represented in or through SGA and their committees. The administration must take the initiative to engage a broader community and this initiative must be part of a much longer process.
3. Ask Questions. Lastly, besides superficially challenging women, how is the college acknowledging its current state of stagnation, and how can we, as a community, be involved in shaping Bryn Mawr and what it should and wants to be?

These words and this article may fall unto deaf ears, but we believe that to be truly engaged and active, to be truly involved in challenging women, we must be willing to take some risks. We invite you to start taking some risks, big or small.



Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-11-19 14:13:00 :
Link to this Comment: 7325

I very much agree with Paula and Akudo's statement that "to be truly involved in challenging women, we must be willing to take some risks. We invite you to start taking some risks, big or small" and hope that others will respond as well to their urging that all members of the community become more actively "involved in shaping Bryn Mawr and what it should and wants to be ."

With that thought it mind, let me too take a risk (as Paul and Akudo did). I'm old, and so see things, for better or for worse (more about this in a moment), in a light colored by memories of lots of lives lived (my own and others). I can't but speak out of that set of experiences, as others speak out of theirs.

I believe very deeply in social/cultural change, at Bryn Mawr and elsewhere. At the same time, I have come to believe that social/cultural change is inevitably a little bit like someone once described baseball: long periods of tedium (and frustration) punctuated by brief periods of excitment (and apparent, as opposed to equally important but largely invisible, action). Social/cultural change absolutely depends on a strong commitment to change, but it equally requires substantial stubborness, lots of tedious ground laying work, patience, and the ability to wait for/notice the occasional cracks without which more visible social change cannot occur.

Out of age, I have also come to believe that social/cultural change is most effectively promoted by coming to see one's immediate concerns in a broader context. Individuals, institutions, and societies/cultures interact in very complex and bidirectional ways. Because of this it is rarely possible to generate substantial change at one location without concomitant changes elsewhere. That is very much NOT to say that one shouldn't try to bring about changes where one is; if people didn't do that everywhere, changes wouldn't occur anywhere. It is to say that one needs to recognize that how things are at one place, and how much they can change at any given time, is a function of how things are elsewhere as well. The perhaps more positive side of this complexity is that one can find allies and relevant experiences elsewhere ... and contribute support and experiences elsewhere as well. In the immediate context, I think its important to understand that trying to achieve a culture within which a broad diversity of human beings and perspectives work well together is not simply a Bryn Mawr problem, it is a national and world-wide problem, not only an important practical but also a profoud intellectual problem. Understanding it as such in no way detracts from the need for change here. It can, however, contribute importantly to our thinking about how to bring about change here, and it makes what we do here of broader signficance.

Finally, I have, again out of age, come to believe that social/cultural change is dependent on making common cause to the maximum extent possible. Albert Camus, in The Rebel, wrote

The rebel undoubtedly demands a certain degree of freedom for himself; but in no case, if he is consistent, does he demand the right to destroy the existence and the freedom of others. He humiliates no one. The freedom he claims, he claims for all ... Similar ideas were expressed by Martin Luther King, Mohatma Ghandi, and other great revolutionaries. The principle is a moral but also a very pragmatic one, with very concrete applications. One attempts always to procede from a belief in (or aspiration to achieve) a common humanity in all people, and avoids to the maximum extent possible demonizing or holding distinctively at fault particular individuals or groups of humans. We are all NOT the same, and for that very reason we will not only inevitably all of us do things that offend others, we will also disagree about how to deal with that. But we can, and should, avoid accusing others of being the source of wrongs and pains that stem primarily from our collective society/culture rather than from particular individuals or groups within it. We are all in this together and we need to believe in each others' ability/willingness to participate in meaningful social/cultural change, no matter how different our perceptions at any given time of what that change should be and how it should be brought about. THAT is the challenge, and the promise, of diverse human cultures/societies.

These are, as I said at the outset, the thoughts, for better or for worse, of an old man. Should they be accepted/honored/privileged for that reason? No, of course not. Age provides one with experiences of past situations; present ones are always different and need new ideas. Should the ideas be dismissed because I'm an old man? I hope not (there's the risk); the past may not tell one how to behave in the present but it can help in thinking about what known mistakes to avoid and even in generating new ideas. Most importantly, for me at least, I hope the ideas are not dismissed out of hand because they're mine and I, like Paula and Akudo (and perhaps more others than we sometimes think) would like to be part of making a new kind of world, one in which we are all better able to appreciate each other ... for our differences as much as our similarities.

If we all take the initiative, each in our own best ways, we have the best chance of all getting where we're trying to go. Together.



Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-11-19 14:18:50 :
Link to this Comment: 7326

I very much agree with Paula and Akudo's statement that "to be truly involved in challenging women, we must be willing to take some risks. We invite you to start taking some risks, big or small" and hope that others will respond as well to their urging that all members of the community become more actively "involved in shaping Bryn Mawr and what it should and wants to be ."

With that thought it mind, let me too take a risk (as Paul and Akudo did). I'm old, and so see things, for better or for worse (more about this in a moment), in a light colored by memories of lots of lives lived (my own and others). I can't but speak out of that set of experiences, as others speak out of theirs.

I believe very deeply in social/cultural change, at Bryn Mawr and elsewhere. At the same time, I have come to believe that social/cultural change is inevitably a little bit like someone once described baseball: long periods of tedium (and frustration) punctuated by brief periods of excitment (and apparent, as opposed to equally important but largely invisible, action). Social/cultural change absolutely depends on a strong commitment to change, but it equally requires substantial stubborness, lots of tedious ground laying work, patience, and the ability to wait for/notice the occasional cracks without which more visible social change cannot occur.

Out of age, I have also come to believe that social/cultural change is most effectively promoted by coming to see one's immediate concerns in a broader context. Individuals, institutions, and societies/cultures interact in very complex and bidirectional ways. Because of this it is rarely possible to generate substantial change at one location without concomitant changes elsewhere. That is very much NOT to say that one shouldn't try to bring about changes where one is; if people didn't do that everywhere, changes wouldn't occur anywhere. It is to say that one needs to recognize that how things are at one place, and how much they can change at any given time, is a function of how things are elsewhere as well. The perhaps more positive side of this complexity is that one can find allies and relevant experiences elsewhere ... and contribute support and experiences elsewhere as well. In the immediate context, I think its important to understand that trying to achieve a culture within which a broad diversity of human beings and perspectives work well together is not simply a Bryn Mawr problem, it is a national and world-wide problem, not only an important practical but also a profoud intellectual problem. Understanding it as such in no way detracts from the need for change here. It can, however, contribute importantly to our thinking about how to bring about change here, and it makes what we do here of broader signficance.

Finally, I have, again out of age, come to believe that social/cultural change is dependent on making common cause to the maximum extent possible. Albert Camus, in The Rebel, wrote

The rebel undoubtedly demands a certain degree of freedom for himself; but in no case, if he is consistent, does he demand the right to destroy the existence and the freedom of others. He humiliates no one. The freedom he claims, he claims for all ... Similar ideas were expressed by Martin Luther King, Mohatma Ghandi, and other great revolutionaries. The principle is a moral but also a very pragmatic one, with very concrete applications. One attempts always to procede from a belief in (or aspiration to achieve) a common humanity in all people, and avoids to the maximum extent possible demonizing or holding distinctively at fault particular individuals or groups of humans. We are all NOT the same, and for that very reason we will not only inevitably all of us do things that offend others, we will also disagree about how to deal with that. But we can, and should, avoid accusing others of being the source of wrongs and pains that stem primarily from our collective society/culture rather than from particular individuals or groups within it. We are all in this together and we need to believe in each others' ability/willingness to participate in meaningful social/cultural change, no matter how different our perceptions at any given time of what that change should be and how it should be brought about. THAT is the challenge, and the promise, of diverse human cultures/societies.

These are, as I said at the outset, the thoughts, for better or for worse, of an old man. Should they be accepted/honored/privileged for that reason? No, of course not. Age provides one with experiences of past situations; present ones are always different and need new ideas. Should the ideas be dismissed because I'm an old man? I hope not (there's the risk); the past may not tell one how to behave in the present but it can help in thinking about what known mistakes to avoid and even in generating new ideas. Most importantly, for me at least, I hope the ideas are not dismissed out of hand because they're mine and I, like Paula and Akudo (and perhaps more others than we sometimes think) would like to be part of making a new kind of world, one in which we are all better able to appreciate each other ... for our differences as much as our similarities.

If we all take the initiative, each in our own best ways, we have the best chance of all getting where we're trying to go. Together.


Halloween costume incident
Name: Nancy Vick
Date: //2003-11-19 15:09:34 :
Link to this Comment: 7336

To all members of the Bryn Mawr Community--

As many of you know, two Haverford men attended the Rhoads Halloween party costumed, they said, as "African bush women" or black women. Student reports state that the two men dyed their skin brown and wore afro wigs and prosthetic breasts and posteriors. Their "breasts" were bare and their "butts" clad only in a thong.

"Dressing up" as naked black women invokes a long and painful history directly related to the practice of displaying, buying and selling naked enslaved Africans and to the blackface minstrelsy tradition that began in the antebellum period in the United States.

Like many in the Bi-College community, we are saddened and angered by the apparent disrespect and disregard for community standards that this kind of caricaturing exhibits. The social honor codes at both Bryn Mawr and Haverford provide avenues to address such behavior, and we expect it will be pursued in that context.

However, there are clearly larger, more pervasive issues being played out here. These students were not the first to believe that performing derogatory stereotypes of one group or another is acceptable or even funny. It is our hope that as a community we can foster some constructive conversation and learning from this incident, and from the anger and pain it has caused. The ongoing "Diversity Conversations" and the Sustained Dialogue program, which will begin in a few weeks, provide two immediate opportunities for us to engage these issues, and we look forward to the creation of others as well.

Sincerely,

Nancy J. Vickers
President

Karen Tidmarsh
Dean


Come Talk about OID
Name: Nupur Chau
Date: //2003-11-20 12:44:00 :
Link to this Comment: 7346

> Do you know what OID is?
> Do you want to know what OID is?
> Do you have something to say about OID?
>
> The Office of Instiutional Diversity is currently searching for a new
> Director, as well as making drastic changes about how the office deals
with
> students faculty and staff. Do you have something to say? Do you have
> suggestions about what the new office should look like?
>
> Come and talk about the Office of Institutional Diversity
> THIS THURSDAY
> November 20
> at 4:15
> at the Multicultural Center (across from Brecon)
>
> Questions? Comments? Concerns?
> COME!
>
>
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> Nupur Chaudhury
>
> Student Intern
> Office of Institutional Diversity
>
> Student Supervisor
> Multicultural Center
>
> nchaudhu@brynmawr.edu
>


a question for mr. lord
Name: orah minde
Date: //2003-11-21 16:48:09 :
Link to this Comment: 7364

just got back from identity talk.

a question for mr. lord:

where do you draw the line between 'boys will be boys' and actions that need to be punished. is it okay for these 'boys' to impose psychological pain on african american women in this community but not to inflict physical pain upon them? is that the line?

i don't like that line.

but, we MUST draw one.

if you don't have a line then you can say "boys will be boys" when they rape a female.

how far removed is psychological violence from physical violence?

and when are these college students going to start being refered to as 'men' and not 'adolesents'?


thank you all for the talk.


Peforming Our Identities--and Others: An Account
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-11-22 07:13:25 :
Link to this Comment: 7365

The November 21, 2003 session of "Making Sense of Diversity" was about "Performing Our Identities...and those of Others...and those of Stereotypes: What does it feel and look like?" After we introduced ourselves and described what each of us knew about the current production of Hamlet and the recent performance during the Rhoads Halloween party, Mark spoke about his intentions in the staging of Shakespeare's play: to suggest an identity for Hamlet more complicated than the one that critics (and other characters, and Hamlet himself) have tried to impose: a stable identity that Hamlet can live comfortably inside of, and that will enable others to know how to act with regard to him, a character with no yearnings, no conflicts, no uneasy feelings about his place in the world. Our identities are not fixed like that, and Mark's first move was to provoke and show the failure of all attempts to create such a "fixedness." Hamlet wants either to avenge his father or regress back to a time "when all was well." Those two desires "can't live in the same skin"; it is not until after Ophelia dies that Hamlet learns to "let be" in relation to whatever opportunities the universe provides for him. He reaches a state of "desirelessness," when he needs no longer either to revenge or return to the state before offense was taken. Mark's staging was intended to make a radical statement about the in-stability of Hamlet's identity (by having him performed by three actors), in conversation w/ his own consciousness, in flux in relation to his environment. His performance tried to demonstrate the interplay between what Gertrude Stein called the human mind (the deeply centered part of each of us) and human nature (that portion that negotiates w/ the world), experimenting and inventing provisional identities.

Is it helpful to think that something similar was going on in the Rhoads Halloween incident? The performance was stupid and racist; it was intended to provoke offense. Might we train ourselves away from offense, to some more productive reaction? Or should we seek some way of holding the actors responsible, of punishing them for setting a precedent which we will not countenance? Is there any more acceptable way to take risks, to try out new identities, as a means to developing our own, and providing imput to others to try out and modify theirs? Or is the discomfort created in individuals by others' enactment an essential part of the process of education in a diverse community?

Mark's production intended to unsettle any static understanding of Hamlet, but the caricatured blackface performance at Rhoads was entirely static: it was a 21st century version of Jefferson's representation of black women (see Chapter 14, Notes on the State of Virginia), of Dickens' account of the Hottentot Venus. Can we not change that script? When we see an old identity (worse: a never-accurate stereotype) played and re-played, w/ no interest in changing it--what can we do? What admonishment is the most useful response? Is it not the responsibility of the community to say, "this is reprehensible"? Is there no Bryn Mawr policy spelling out consequences for such acts? Doesn't our social honor code insist on a policy of confrontation? How has the traditional language of confrontation, resolution and separation from the community come to be replaced with the language of jury, punishment and trial?

Was the performance at the Rhoads Halloween party an expression of the culture Bryn Mawr fosters? Bryn Mawr culture tolerates a range of some behaviors, but not others. Are these the consequences of fostering an ideal of toleration? A range of stereotypes were played out at the Halloween party; the setting was "not in good fun," but one filled with the discomfort of excessive alcohol use and sexual posturing. Suburban colleges are deeply entrenched in a culture of racism and elitism, which authorizes us to enact it in quasi-private-public-spaces of parties where drinking, pernicious dressing-up and in-your-face acting out of sexuality occurs. What is really scary is to think that this is an important turning point, not to be lost in scapegoating or victimizing those who dressed as "bush women," but to be found in questioning our own behavior. Are the victims here the black female community? (Is there a double standard of rules of etiquette for women of color?) Or is it the Bryn Mawr/Haverford community as a whole which has been victimized, which has clearly failed in the process of education when such a sophomoric representation happens? We may be intellectually sophisticated, but we are psychosexually immature.

But if we give in to the desire to control drinking and anti-social behavior, we will simply drive it underground. All colleges have traditions of doing stupid stuff: it's better to do it, to see it, to know what it is, rather than to reinforce its secretiveness. The work of Stephen Foster, of Pygmy Markham, and of The Wooster Group was described; the latter performed Our Town in black face: an arresting, disturbing demonstration of a piece of Americana that, in its traditional performance, leaves out racial divisions. What is the value of an institution's tolerance? If we care about diversity, is there a way to make rules of tolerance? Or do we have to live with discomfort? The social world here has been experienced as violent, by some of us; students at Bryn Mawr find themselves performing themselves in ways they would not choose. They are taught traditional ways of performance, but these can be altered.



Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-11-23 11:08:08 :
Link to this Comment: 7371

" ... a new kind of world, one in which we are all better able to appreciate each other ... for our differences as much as our similarities."

Thanks to all for sharing both differences and similarities last Friday. I learned a lot, and am more convinced than ever that there is a new kind of world that we all would like to inhabit ... and that our conversations are creating a path in that direction.

For me the juxtaposition of "tolerance" and "punishment", of "violence" and "offensiveness", and our difficulties in "drawing lines" suggested that we perhaps need a new way to think about some of these matters. And, by coincidence, Jim Martin from GSWSR sent me last night an article that might help.

In "Telling the Truth About Power", Jean Baker Miller writes

"In growth-fostering relationships, facilitating the power of one person does not mean less power for the other. That kind of thinking usually follows from the notion of a "zerosum game" or from patriarchal, power-over thinking. This is still how most institutions operate. However, we can begin to envision the ways of reframing the power issue. The answer does not lie in flipping over whoever is in power so that subordinates gain more power but continue operating in the same old dominant-subordinate framework. The answer is to search for a new structure altogether, one of mutual empowerment. This transformation would change life for all of us." "Mutual empowerment" is an idea quite simlar to Camus' in The Rebel who continues from what I quoted earlier to say the rebel is not only the slave against the master, but also man against the world of master and slave. Therefore, thanks to rebellion, there is something more in history than the relation between mastery and servitude. Could we perhaps get beyond some of the difficult, perhaps unresolvable, issues that we were talking about by learning to think differently about the matter? By insisting for ourselves (and for others) on not falling into the "patriarchical" mold, "the same old dominant-subordinate framework"? By commiting ourselves, among ourselves and in our interactions with others, to being agents of "mutual empowerment"? Christ, Martin Luther King, and Ghandi all thought there was potential along this path. Maybe we should take a crack at it?

A couple of other things that might provide some additional grist for the conversational mill generally:

  • Does Race Exist?, an article in the most recent Scientific American talking about relevant issues in biology and medicine
  • Forum on Culture as Disability, a different on-line conversation based on the article "Culture as Disability" by anthropologists Ray McDermott and Herve Varenne. The issue currently under discussion is whether cultures inevitably create "disabilities" in some of their members.
  • The Disability Gulag, an article in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine by Harriet McBryde Johnson, a disability rights activist.


an answer for Orah
Name: mark lord
Date: //2003-11-24 05:59:10 :
Link to this Comment: 7382

I'll attempt an answer, since Orah posed the question to me, but I don't feel particularly well qualified to do so.

There is a line, of course; there has to be. Or at least I am incapable of imagining a world in which (for example) rape or physical violence is not prohibited by law. As I understand it, in our country, even the explicit threat of rape or physical violence is on the other side of the line.

So (I agree with you) a question is where to draw the line, knowing that the line is loccated somewhere in between threatening violence and ... unintentionally offending someone. (Set aside for now whether in our case the offense was intentional or not.) I am glad that we agree that knowing where to draw this line is very hard.

mark


some more grist
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2003-11-24 18:14:14 :
Link to this Comment: 7386

It helps to remember that the "diversity" issue is not unique to Bryn Mawr ... both for thinking about our own situation and in making common cause with/contributing to discussions elsewhere. Along which lines


correction: Pigmeat Markham
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-11-25 10:33:12 :
Link to this Comment: 7393

Correction to the posting above, Performing Our Identities--and Others: An Account. I misheard as "Pgymy" the name of Pigmeat Markham, a comedian, singer, dancer, actor who worked in vaudeville, film, t.v. (including Laugh-In...)


Physical Spaces & Diversity
Name: Cassandra
Date: //2003-12-04 14:36:05 :
Link to this Comment: 7464

Unfortunately, I will not be able to come to the community forum tomorrow, but I felt like I (as a Cities minor and generally interested person) ought to give everyone here a few questions to ask about the physical spaces of campus as well as the emotional/mental spaces of diversity.

1.) The new Multicultural Center building--does this physical building symbolize diversity on campus for you? If so, how? I've been to the Multicultural Center a few times now, and was fascinated by the way that its architecture (both inside and outside) was relatively plain and neutral, but how there were various posters, wall hangings, and the like, inside that "made" it into a culturally decorated space. Would a truly multicultural center have been a building or grouping of buildings based around different architectural traditions other than this kind of postmodern-victorian that the architecture is now? Do these different cultural decorations within the center really remake the space culturally?
Or are the groups that use the center the cause for the multiculturalism?

2.) Are there spaces on campus where people of color or various religious backgrounds feel uncomfortable or comfortable because of the architecture and the cultural cues this architecture gives off?

Just a few things to think about this afternoon.



Name: orah minde
Date: //2003-12-05 17:21:24 :
Link to this Comment: 7472

thank you all, again, for the talk.

i recently read an excerpt from don delillo's novel 'cosmopolis.' delillo, probably the darkest writer i know, writes about our consumer culture. we are taught that amassment of possessions is the desired state in which to be. we are always trying to find ways to acheive more. we pad our identities with our possessions, they become so apart of US that we lose track of who we are underneath our objects. it's a kind of gluttony. ((anyone seen 'fight club'?))
in a way our education here at bryn mawr is a part of this amassment. we are consumers in our education. we don't have time to think about our SELVES right now, to stop consuming and look and interact with what we already have, because the first instant we stop thinking about the future we're going to lose our balance and be trampled under this churning current of consumerism. we never have time to actually interact with what we have because we are swept up in this culture that tells us to keep getting and getting and getting. and we never live in the NOW, we never look at ourselves NOW. we are always searching for another SELF, a SELF with more, a future self. and i tell myself that after college i will have time... ((elliot writes in proofrock, "and indeed there will be time / to wonder ... Do i dare / disturb the universe?" )) but, i don't think it ever stops...is he right that there will be time? ... i think we are trained to beleive that there will be time but i'm scared that i will be old and retireing and then begin to look at what i have and that won't be time enough...and by that time there won't be any time to do the disturbing i want to do. we are given a lifetime of present moments, of oppertunities to disturb, but we are choked so full of the future that we don't change the world. delillo writes, "the present is harder to find. it is being sucked out of the world to make way for the future."

lenny bruce writes in his autobiography, "our society is based on competition. if it isn't impressed upon you at home with the scramble for love between brothers and sisters, they really lay it down to you in school- in numbers any child can understand- that's what grading is. you bring home 100 percent and your motehr hugs you and your father pats you on the back. the teachers beam at you. but now your schoolmates; they know they're in competition with you, and if you get a high percentage they must get a lower one. everykbody wants love and acceptance and he soon learns that one way to get it is by getting higher marks than the other fellow. in essence, you are gratified by your schoolmates failures. we take this with us into adulthood."

so, why don't i step out? say, fuck the system? is it possible to change the system...i really really don't know.
maybe the only way to do it is through small discussions like ours.
maybe we do have to start on the small scale.
just change bryn mawr.
.....................


mutual empowerment
Name: emily mads
Date: //2003-12-05 19:24:44 :
Link to this Comment: 7473

orah says perhaps change must start on the small scale. why not start right away? it is in this spirit that i am posting. i hope that there are others out there who are equally fascinated by the idea of this "third sphere" which was discussed today. specifically the mutual empowerment, or "mutual cultivation" aspects.
so how can we re-examine or revise the expectations that students hold when they enter a classroom? how can we promote the concept that one enters a relationship of learning with a professor and a class not just to be altered, but also to alter others? how can we facilitate better facilitation? again, there remains also the question of the unknown and how self-examination can be scary-- what responsibilities does this mean we need to accept?
if this move towards mutuality in the classrooms and in confrontational situations here at bryn mawr is to be further addressed... i'd like to propose a new discussion group/committee that would look into making the sorts of changes that were discussed today. i hope i'm not stepping on anyone's toes here, but it would be really neat to see a group of students and faculty who would be willing to tackle this issue with the intensity and depth of emotion that was present in the room today. if anyone would be interested in participating in a group of this sort (i am not even sure yet what form this group could or would take... suggestions are welcome), please feel free to email me with your contact info, and we can see about getting together to continue this dialogue.


"The way in is through spaces..."
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-12-06 10:41:40 :
Link to this Comment: 7476

Nineteen of us responded to the invitation, extended by Prerna Srivastava (BMC 04) and Jody Cohen (Education Program) on 12/05/03 to think-and-talk together about how both curricular and physical spaces at Bryn Mawr might be more welcoming of diversity. Prerna began our discussion with the observation that "63% of American colleges and universities either have in place or are developing diversity requirements." Is such a requirement desireable at Bryn Mawr? The Haverford social justice requirement did not prevent the Rhoads Halloween scene. Bryn Mawr faculty may not be well trained to teach such courses: they sometimes make comments without an awareness that they are giving offense, and they sometimes over-identify students with particular groups, addressing them as tokens or representatives.

What new programs and infrastructures are needed on campus? Students who want to major in ethnic studies are unable to do so, because there are not enough course offerings; what ever happened to the student ethnic studies committee? Professors steer away from such discussions of diversity in the classroom; what other spaces exist here for talking about such issues? In the classroom, students are thinking,

  • "I am removed from what I am learning about."
  • "The subject matter is outside who I am, not tied to myself or my own community."
  • How can students become an active part of the curriculum, and come to feel that their histories are related to what they are learning?
  • Faculty are often "unable to translate between what they are looking for and what students are feeling."
  • Students feel that they have to take themselves out of their course of study, as it becomes abstract.
  • Students often feel that what they have to say is not valid if it is not grounded in theory; they find themselves "looking for the piece that legitimizes them," in order to retain validity.

What are the steps we can take toward "instituting diversity" in the BMC curriculum? (Can you institutionalize diversity? Or is diversity always what is "outside," what escapes institutionalization?) What can we work with, within the culture we have, and what new ingredients do we want to add? We identified three realms where action is needed:

  • an enriched curriculum of ethnic studies courses
  • teacher training in how to facilitate useful discussions
  • mutual empowerment: a shared conviction by students and teachers that it is in the interest of us all to contribute to the alteration of us all. Both faculty and students need to alter their mindsets: faculty need to know that they can be altered by their students; students need to stop thinking "I'm here to get mine; am the recipient, you will give me my education," and learn to feel responsible for altering both their faculty and their fellow classmates, by sharing what they think.

We want a thicker presence, in the curriculum, of ways of knowing and asking about diversity, spaces where we are not afraid to not understand, but where we can ask questions, knowing that our voices "signify." We want to be able to claim where we come from, to value that and have it valued, without feeling that we are representative of any group larger than our individual selves.

But how receptive are both faculty and students here to this sort of education? These are hopeful conversations, yet not everyone participates in them; should they be required? Students who suggest changes in classroom dynamics often feel that they are then under particular pressure to carry the class. How much training in teaching do teachers get? It's very hard to facilitate discussion around issues of diversity; professors get scared; they are afraid of losing control, of "letting go," of "letting things move." It's hard to balance safety and risk; how can we be active actors in doing so?

There is a huge fear, at Bryn Mawr, of offending and being offended, so that we seldom talk to one another about what we really think. To seriously engage in mutual empowerment, we all have to commit ourselves to accepting the risk of both offending and being offended; the only useful stories are those which different from our own, and it may offend us to hear them. But if our primary concern is comfort, then mutual learning will not happen. Without facilitation, walls are built when offense happens. We need to learn to talk with one another outside the classroom, when there is no assigned facilitator. Bryn Mawr offers only a "facade" of the culture of confrontation it claims to be; when we are offended, we become passive aggressive, rather than acknowledging the "appealing outcomes of rubbed edges."


Beyond "culture as disability"?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-01-31 13:37:40 :
Link to this Comment: 7847

Thanks all for a rich and generative conversation (as always), one of two usefully related ones yesterday afternoon. See sketch of ideas it triggered in me.


"Culture as Disability": One Report on the Convers
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-02-01 17:42:17 :
Link to this Comment: 7870

Nineteen of us gathered in the Multicultural Center @ noon on Friday, January 31, 2003 for a discussion of "Culture as Disability." The argument of the essay by that title (which was written by professors of anthropology and education), is that disabilities are culturally-specific: every cultural system, every set of value and abilities, has built-in a concomitant set of disabilities, which are both a display-board for its weaknesses and a site for possible change. The essay centers on the matter of school performance: if all of us are pitted in a race for academic achievement, then some will inevitably be disabled by that process (the "learning disability" which is accommodated by extended test-taking time, for instance, is of issue only in a culture which uses timed tests for evaluative purposes. Nor would a diagnosis of "attentive deficit disorder" have been applicable to Huck Finn as he floated downriver....)

Our discussion turned to the particular ways in which the culture of Bryn Mawr both enables and disables us. What role does this "intensely competitive place" play in our own sense of self-worth and value? It's "hard to get in," but also "hard to get out"of Bryn Mawr; there are many supports available to help us achieve here. But the achievement-oriented culture is itself disabling; it can be very discouraging to be "surrounded by others' greatness." Might we re-evaluate what we do in light of others' expectations? How do our own aspirations become obligations? How much of what we engage in do we actually believe in and have a passion for? What are the fears which structure our behaviors and performances? What disabilities are built into the act of pursuing what we value and find enabling in an undergraduate or graduate degree?

Why does it feel "subhuman" to have a disability? Each of us has, at some time or another, been made to feel inferior by the society of which we are a part. The major disabling act of culture is encouraging individuals to measure themselves against others--or against some abstract or absolute standard. Rather than thinking of your experience here as "paying the college to make you make a product that you will be evaluated on," might we re-conceive the goal of education as helping each of us figure out who we are and what gives us pleasure? How might we all learn to measure ourselves against ourselves? What would that mean? Doing so may indeed require admitting to ourselves that we can not achieve what we want: accepting the genuine individuality of each of us might also mean being open to a change in ourselves. If there is no single definition of inherent human dignity, then not only will each individual differ from every other one, but each can alter who she is, what she values, and what she is capable of doing over the course of time.

It can be more difficult to acquire a disability than to be born with one, and all of us will, in the course of time, acquire conditions that are not escapable (we might leave Bryn Mawr if we don't find it "enabling," but many people are not able to leave their wheelchairs). However, the act of enabling access to a culture, like the work of making the campus physically accessible, is not about tolerating difference. It involves, rather, valuing ourselves and others for whatever is unique about each of us, and actively appreciating each particular contribution to our joint activities. There are LOTS of different ways to be a high achiever. We can both acknowledge the limits of the valuations made of us by others (in the classroom, for instance), and work to expand the range of what is valued by this culture, and what we value both in ourselves and in one another.

This conversation will continue in person in two weeks: at noon on Friday, Feb. 13, Nell Anderson and Paula Arboleda will engage us in talking about "Community Involvement and Diversity Issues." In the interim, all are welcome to continue the discussion on-line @ http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/forum/newforum/diversitybmc-read.html


the personal and the political
Name: Tom Young
Date: //2004-02-02 06:44:27 :
Link to this Comment: 7896

Anne, thank you for putting me onto those two other postings. Your suggestion that we might "re-conceive the goal of education as helping each of us figure out who we are and what gives us pleasure" sent me to the bookcase to find Carol Gilligan's "The Birth of Pleasure."

I still struggle with understanding how the personal and the political intersect and reading her book certainly keeps that struggle alive.

For example, on p. 217 she writes: "At the present moment in history, the possibility of repairing long-standing ruptures in relationships between people and between nations is in our midst. The birth of pleasure vies with the repetition of tragedy. (Sounds like your "huge back story of emergent systems to me.")And it is the very volatility of this moment that leads me to retrace a history of finding and losing and then finding again an old map of love now joined by contemporary psychological wisdom."

Perhaps it is the "openness to a change in ourselves" that you referred to that feels "irrational" and drives the political process of disablement. That would make fear--both individual and collective--a fundamental part of the process wouldn't it?

Appreciate the conversation.

Tom.


Community Involvement and Diversity Issues: A Repo
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-02-16 13:53:45 :
Link to this Comment: 8211

Under the guidance of Nell Anderson (Praxis Program) and Paula Arboleda (BMC '05), sixteen of us gathered to discuss "Community Involvement and Diversity Issues." Asking us to share the ways we experienced and interpreted difference while working as volunteers or doing fieldwork in unfamiliar communities, Nell and Paula asked us to speak in particular about

  • how we were made to feel different
  • how we perceived this difference
  • how we were made aware of power dynamics and privilege
  • how all these layers informed/complicated/empowered our relationships and experiences within these communities.
There was much discussion about our perceptions about "how we fit," of being "suspect" because we were "different." There were many descriptions of the gap between how we see ourselves and how we are seen (sometimes as powerful, sometimes as "clueless") in communities outside of Bryn Mawr. There were also many suggestions about our being willing to revise how we might be of service to others. It was suggested that we
  • watch the language we use,
  • "take it slow" ("be willing to date for a while")
  • "meet people where they are, not where we think they are"
  • volunteer in a community not in order to fix it, but in order to get to know the people there
  • not impose on others our sense of what their better life might be.

It was also suggested that we ask ourselves why we do service: what is our vision of our role? What motivates us, politically, economically, psychologically, to volunteer in a community which is not our own? Where IS our community, and how is it defined? What do we have to give that's most needed? How does guilt operate as a motivator and/or preventor of action?

Questions were also asked about the kinds of service Bryn Mawr students are invited to do; should we be painting someone's house, rather than working with people who do not have houses? How willing are we to make long-term commitments, and how trivial is community service work always going to be, outside of that larger context? People in the communities around us can and will show us what is needed, if we really want to serve: things we haven't thought we were capable of, and which we can do.


the abling work of language
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-02-21 13:16:35 :
Link to this Comment: 8336

Of interest, I bet, to those who have been talking together about the abling/disabling aspects of this country's culture of education: a re-issue of Helen Keller's The World I Live In--which is (according to The New York Review of Books) a testimony to the redemptive power of (written) language: it gave her access to experiences which (since she was both deaf and blind) she did not have sensorily.


the abling work of language
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-02-21 14:23:04 :
Link to this Comment: 8337

Of interest, I bet, to those who have been talking together about the abling/disabling aspects of this country's culture of education: a re-issue of Helen Keller's The World I Live In--which is (according to The New York Review of Books) a testimony to the redemptive power of (written) language: it gave her access to experiences which (since she was both deaf and blind) she did not have sensorily.


Segregation and Integration: A Report
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-02-29 12:22:57 :
Link to this Comment: 8557

Those of us who gathered @ noon on 2/27/04 for Thinking About Segregation and Integration: An Interactive Scientific Exploration Using Models first heard Nia Turner explain that, "since the world is not a historically black college," she had decided to come to Bryn Mawr and "learn to use the language" taught here. Her experience since has been that of a "dual education," learning to negotiate between two worlds: Bryn Mawr and the middle-class black neighborhood in which she grew up. Nia's choosing to be around people different from herself became the stepping-off point for our discussion about the fact that, in lots of contexts (high school cafeterias, college campuses, segregated urban and suburban neighborhoods), "people distribute themselves in non-random ways." Paul Grobstein then ran a simple computer model which simulated the decision of individual entities to select 1/2 of their neighbors "like themselves." All of us assumed that the degree of individual preference for "like things" would be directly reflected in the degree of communal segregation; what surprised us, as Paul repeatedly ran the simulation, was that decreasing the percentage of the starting requirement—selecting 40% or 35% preference for likeness, for instance—did not decrease the segregation of the neighborhood overall, which always remained ~80%. Allowing free movement did not lead to integration; the "crutch" of entropy (and the related presumption that "all matter likes to have difference around it," and "feels more stable that way") did not play out in the ways we expected. What we were seeing instead was a "cascading effect": the movement of one entity to find more neighbors "like" itself initiated movement among all the other entities on the grid.

However, when the rules of the game were changed—when the initial preference was altered to select for preferring 50% difference among neighbors--the simulation generated an integrated pattern. Turns out there are large differences in consequences deriving from these two different initial conditions: selecting for what is "like" oneself, vs. selecting for what is different, and setting criteria in relation to those selections. To get an integrated neighborhood, this simple simulation suggests, you do not begin w/ a preference for likeness--and then learn to tolerate difference; you instead select for/seek out/take an interest in difference--and then find commonalities. There was discussion about whether we are "hard-wired" to prefer what is similar, or whether--whatever we start w/, genetically--we can alter our inclinations by recognizing and reflecting on our initial inclinations. It was acknowledged that it is hard to seek out difference, if we start w/ a presumption of sameness (="color blindedness"); it was also suggested that, if we start with a presumption that there are no differences among us, we may unconsciously select for sameness. There was some discussion about the risks we associate with selecting for difference, and our presumptions that selecting for sameness is less dangerous. Some of us spoke of a personal interest in going to different places; it was also acknowledged that "all doors don't swing both ways": all of us are not welcome in one another's neighborhoods.

We ended the session by running a simulation ourselves: we first sought out others in the room who were like us (resulting in small clumps) and then sought out others who were different (which resulted in larger groups). We could see ourselves, thereby, enacting steps toward integrating our campus--and the world beyond it. A set of interactions based on difference seemed to us far more fluid than one based on similarity.


Re-thinking customs and traditions at Bryn Mawr: a
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-03-20 09:33:29 :
Link to this Comment: 8909

Chuck Heyduk (Dean's Office) and Hannah Wilhelm (BMC 05) began our discussion about "Re-thinking Customs and Traditions at Bryn Mawr" by describing the desire of us all to be who we are in a supportive community. What experiences can we put in place to make each of us feel invited to belong, without a pressure to conform? Keeping the focus on interdependence, they asked us to try to imagine together a community that didn't require each of us to do/be the same in order to be friends. What have we learned, at Bryn Mawr, about how to be a member of a community? What experiences might we imagine, as ideal introductions into such a community?

Do we need to share the same experiences in order to feel that we belong? How much can we impose on others what we want Bryn Mawr to be for them? Are customs and traditions exclusionary by their very design/nature? Can shared rituals work, if each of us is allowed to do them on her own terms? What is the fine line between being "allowed to skip out" and being "allowed" to be part of a community? The ostensible goal of Bryn Mawr customs is to be welcoming, to help orient newcomers into the community. But they can have the effect of feeling "babied" by "intrusive semi-mothers" who tell us where we should be and how we should dress. Pressure is put on trivial details, rather than on the spirit of being welcoming. Must there be a right and wrong way to participate? Can you tell others that their mentality is wrong? It is NOT okay to have a tradition that makes another feel bad.

Rituals are intended to affirm us as members of this community, and we are being invited now to think of new ways of doing that, keeping in mind that each of us is different. We actually don't know how to select for difference. What would the rituals of a community of difference look like? Is unity the goal? Can such rituals be accomplished without pressure? Could there be a spirit week celebrating our differences? Couldn't there be more space in existing traditions, allowing each individual her own level of engagement, without corraling and hounding w/ scheduled events? Hell week right now has a dimension of psychological "paddling," and elements of fear. Hell week is in some ways a parody of hazing; could it serve its function w/out the elements of humiliation? Must it begin w/ deception, in order for the bonding to happen at the end? One function of hell week is that it offers free license to do what we will. It is a chance to be silly, to have fun.

We are not seeking the anonymity we might have at a larger school; it is nice to be recognized for being yourself. We can think of ourselves as a stamp collection, or an art collection, showcasing our diversity. It's good to have common reference points across the generations (knowing that Mawrtyrs from other eras have shared the same experiences we have). But we need to figure out ways that our traditions can welcome individuals into this community rather than making newcomers feel that they are being socialized into how to behave at Bryn Mawr. How diverse are we really, as a community? And how much do we interact with others different from ourselves? It's useful when we are all doing the same thing; we can engage, then, with others we don't normally interact with. Or do we, during traditions, continue to "clump" with those who are like ourselves, standing and sitting together in order to say that we are different, "a community within a community"? We select our friends because they are like us; there are time limitations on our being involved with others.

We wish that traditions didn't try to define community membership ("you must do this in order to belong"; "this is the ideal we will all live by"), but rather that, out of these traditions, other traditions could arise. If you don't feel comfortable w/ current traditions, create new ones. But these programs must be sensitive to need. The goal is to have a diversity of experience, not to give a seal of approval, to say whether you belong. But the sense of what is expected can cause a certain amount of pressure to act in a certain way, so you know "you are in," that "you are not out." Rather than saying "this is how we do it," and "to belong you have to do it," what would it feel like (what would it look like, in ritual form) to be invited to be yourself? Let's get some particulars on the table.


Religious Diversity: A Report on the Conversation
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-04-04 22:36:33 :
Link to this Comment: 9154

About forty of us gathered on April 2, 2004 for a discussion of Religious Diversity, which opened with short presentations by Jessie Posilkin, Orah Minder, Wil Franklin and Aminah Mohammad about their various ways of making sense of the universe. Discussion began with the questions, "Why haven't we heard these stories from one another before? What is the barrier to talking about religion? " Answers were many:

  • it's unfashionable (there's a stigma attached to being religious; one doesn't want to lose respect; one doesn't want to be associated w/ fundamentalists)
  • it's difficult to have faith, if the pattern of the community is to doubt
  • there is seldom a sense of real dialogue in discussions about religion: the objective often seems to be to prove to others that one's own system ("the god in my pocket") is best
  • these are less conversations than conflicts about what we do not have in common; they seem "double monologues," in which each participant talks but does not listen
  • people are scared of "change on the inside"; they build a defensive wall in front of their beliefs, in fear that examining them will lead to doubt
  • we have other reasons to be afraid to talk: we are afraid of offending, afraid of showing our ignorance; we are ashamed of what we do not know
  • we don't know enough to have a real dialogue; we need to build up a vocabulary in order to be able to really talk with one another about our religious beliefs
  • we can only have a dialogue if we are comfortable with one another
  • there is pressure to compartmentalize: one's religious life is thought to be invisible, private, "on your own time"
  • we all feel schizophrenic; how can we become integrated people? what are the narratives that will tie together the disparate parts of our selves? how can we operate in a principled way?
  • if we are serious about finding a space where religious expression is welcome, we need to acknowledge that there is a history (of attempts at conversion) to overcome; we would feel freer to talk if we didn't think others wanted to change us
  • contrariwise, we must be open to being changed by our interactions with others
  • there is a natural inclination to engage with others who share something in common w/ ourselves (this may be particularly true for religious beliefs: it is a comfort to surround ourselves w/ those who share the narrative that we tell about the nature of the universe)
  • but" religious" is not a unitary category; that word has a range of meanings
  • we might all try to cultivate a more "laid back" attitude: it's better to have multiple "assureds"/forms of "insurance" than just one!

As discussion drew to a close, the conversation turned to the possibility of opening something "akin to a sports bar" on campus, a Relation to the Universe Bar. Stay tuned for further developments.


bilinguals & crosscultural neuropsychology
Name: F. Frank L
Date: //2004-04-06 21:11:12 :
Link to this Comment: 9214

I hope this does not go too far beyond "comment" or "discussion", but I do want to enhance diversity in what might be otherwise a rather parochial "Neuropsychologist" focus on problems of diversity. For example, not only other kinds of psychologists but (e.g. Speech/Language Pathologists, Special Ed teachers, etc., etc.)

You're probably not included among "The Usual Suspects" in NYNG's mailings, but we (the New York Neuropsychology Group) are multi-disciplinary and we encourage people in a broad spectrum of professions to share their own insights and practical experience with problems of serving patients from "non-standard" cultural and linguistic communities.

At the May 1 conference in Greenwich Village, or at our regular small, informal, Task Force meetings, led by Dr. Alizah Brozgold at St. Vincent's Hospital, NYC [details & Task Force schedule at ].

I append an outline of the program. If you wish, I can also send you a formal brochure--or several, if you wish to distribute them in your department (faculty & students).

-------------------------------------------------

--->FULL DETAILS AVAILABLE AT WWW.NYNG.ORG<---

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Crosscultural Challenges to Neuropsychology's Brain
Theories and Clinical Practice
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Twenty-Fifth Annual Conference,
New York Neuropsychology Group;
Joint Meeting with the Psychology Forum,
New York Academy of Science.
Co-sponsored by the Foundation of
the New York State Psychological Association.

Saturday, May 1, 2004

St. Vincent's Hospital,
Cronin Auditorium [10th floor],
170 West 12th Street [7th Avenue],
New York, New York

Thousands needing neuropsychological assessment
have cultural histories precluding valid use of
standard tests, perhaps even an adequate interview.

Is it worse to deny service, or to offer what might
be a disservice? Worse yet: doing either without
acknowledging & working to remedy the problem.

 We present critical analyses of fundamental
problems of crosscultural neuropsychology, past
efforts to deal with them, current practices, new
proposals.

 Crosscultural challenges do more than confront
flaws in current practice. Other "academic" cultures
(school psychology, speech-language pathology,
psycholinguistics) offer new resources:
a rationale and methodology for taking cultural
bias into account in selecting and using tests,
& a model for constructing non-translated but
equivalent tests in different languages.

 Normal bilingual functioning suggests dimensions
not yet measured by neuropsychologists; alternating
aphasias in bilinguals complement recent evidence of
the dynamic nature of brain lesions to challenge
traditional concepts of "damage", "localization" and
"rehabilitation".

Organizers:

Alizah Brozgold, Ph.D.
NY Medical College
& St. Vincent's Medical Center

F. Frank LeFever, Ph.D.
NYNG (Pres.) & NYAS Psychology Forum

Speakers & Topics:

The Culture in Cross-Cultural Neuropsychology:
An Attempt at Developing a Research Program and
Its Implication for the Contemporary Practice
of Clinical Neuropsychology with Hispanics.
***Antonio E. Puente, Ph.D.,
Univ. of North Carolina at Wilmington

Deconstructing Race and Education: Lessons for
Neuropsychology.
***Jennifer J. Manly, Ph.D.,
Columbia U. College of Physicians & Surgeons

Towards a Cross Cultural Clinical Neuropsychology:
Education Must Precede Practice.
***Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D., ABPP,
Univ. of Michigan & VA Med Ctr, Ann Arbor

Nondiscriminatory Cross-cultural Assessment:
A developmental psycholinguistic approach to
neuropsychological practice.
***Samuel O. Ortiz, Ph.D.,
St. John''s University, New York City

Is there a Bilingual Brain?
***Rafael Arturo Javier, Ph.D., ABPP,
St. John''s University, New York City

Bilingual aphasia recovery patterns and
cerebral organization of verbal communication.
***Michel Paradis, Ph.D.,
McGill University, Montreal

REGISTRATION:

Online, at www.NYNG.org [Visa or MasterCard]

Or send check with NAME, ADDRESS
(incl. Zip), & eMAIL ADDRESS to:

Dr. Alizah Brozgold, Rehab Med, Link 1,
St. Vincent''s Med Ctr
170 W. 12th St.,
NY 10011

Before April 17
Nonmember.....................$95
NYNG or NYSPA member...........65
Student nonmember..............25
NYNG or NYSPA student member...20

After April 17 or at the door
Nonmember....................$105
NYNG or NYSPA member...........75
Student nonmember..............30
NYNG or NYSPA student member...25

***You can join NYNG when registering
to get reduced fee for members.
Annual dues: $25 regular, $10 student.

***Refunds minus $20 ($5 for students)
if canceled by April 17.

***Continuing Education:
Add $10, specify it is for CE.

This program is intended to provide psychologists
& other professionals with an understanding of
theoretical, clinical,& ethical problems of
dealing with clients from other cultures,
current resources for dealing with them,
& insights into brain function derived from
crosscultural research.

6 credits of CE available for psychologists
completing the full program.
Preparation beyond basic postgraduate training
not required.
The Foundation of the New York State
Psychological Association is approved by
the American Psychological Association to
offer continuing education for psychologists.
The Foundation of NYSPA maintains responsibility
for the program.

Abstracts, general information: www.NYNG.org
NYAS information: www.NYAS.org
NYSPA information: www.NYSPA.org
==========================================


"Sexual Orientation and Perception": A Report on a
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-04-17 20:08:54 :
Link to this Comment: 9411

Twenty of us gathered on April 16 for a conversation about "Sexual Orientation and Perception at Bryn Mawr, Then and Now." It was initiated by Claudia Ginanni (BMC '86; Web Content Manager, Public Affairs Office), who was joined by two current undergrads, Lindsay Rowe (BMC '04) and Emily Madsen (BMC '06). Saying that she "represented the historical perspective on lesbian identity at Bryn Mawr," Claudia opened the conversation by describing her experience as "the inverse" of that she's heard women of color describe: They came to Bryn Mawr, where they repeatedly experienced a sense of isolation, from places where they had been surrounded by other people of color. Claudia's experience was the opposite: She came from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where there were extreme sanctions against "sexual perversion," and found Bryn Mawr encouraging and welcoming to lesbians and bi-sexuals. To Claudia, "Bryn Mawr was a paradise."

Over the course of time, however, she noticed--without seeking it out--that her hangouts were increasingly populated by other lesbians. She found comfort in being around others "just like me"--but then realized that all were not like her, that, in fact, they "didn't agree on what being a lesbian meant." Each of them had a range of other affiliations that didn't overlap with one another. The early '80s were the "tail end of the politics of separation from the oppressor" (=men). Some lesbians urged other women to make lesbianism their political choice; they saw it as a political virtue that straight women could not possess. Many straight women were alienated by such a position. Claudia reported that some of her classmates are "still mad, twenty years later, at being made to feel like second class citizens." Although most of the lesbians on campus were not committed to that position, not interested in "chastizing others for their choice of sexual partners," a number of straight women are still vehement in their reports of their fears of starting a conversation with lesbians, their vague apprehension of being snubbed as a "regular old straight woman."

What the straight women didn't know was that there was a fierce struggle going on among lesbians about what lesbianism was and meant. Many of the lesbians at Bryn Mawr were not visible; they thought their sexual choices no one else's business. There were two other main "factions" among the lesbians on campus: the philosophical descendents of separatism, who understood mode of dress (insistence on short hair, rejection of make-up and girly dress/colors/styles) as a political stance. Acknowledging that she was overstating the severity of these rules, Claudia insisted that "rules did exist." This faction dismissed others as "Esprit Dikes, not lesbian enough, insufficiently lesbian" in the way they presented themselves. Ten years out, when many in the first group began to marry, they were jumped, in turn, by members of the second group for "not being REAL lesbians after all."

Although Claudia herself was an "out lesbian," she never joined any of the groups on campus, wanting to preserve her utopian idea of a coherent lesbian identity; she wanted "as many people as could be, to be my people." She admitted, however, that she later became involved, herself, in "policing the category." When a lesbian friend of hers began having sex with a man, she told her that she "could not call yourself a lesbian." At the time, she thought of herself as "an advocate for the precision of language: 'there is a word for you.'" She eventually understood her emotional investment in this position: she thought her friend's sense of sexual entitlement was the result of her growing up straight. She had never suffered the burden of teenage shame and fear: "you are NOT like me; get off my word." Claudia later realized how unproductive it was to exclude from "her category" everybody whose experience differed from her own.

Lindsay Rowe, a past president of Rainbow Alliance, said that more students are coming to Bryn Mawr "already out and proud." (The old joke--"What do you call it when a Mawrter comes out? Her sophomore year"--holds less these days.) Along with the students who now arrive at Bryn Mawr already clear about their queer orientation (and not all of these feel the need to choose it publically) are increasing numbers who have been raised by queer parents.

Emily Madsen spoke next about her discomfort in saying "I'm straight." Bryn Mawr has given her the opportunity not to define herself with a category of sexual orientation. There is a fluidity here, and she is glad she hasn't had to affiliate herself with a group according to her own preferences (which are more specific than this category allows; there are certain types of men she prefers). And yet, in preparing for this discussion, she realized that all her close friends would identify as straight. Does she herself perform straight or hetro in a way that makes lesbians uneasy? How can she be a better ally, and put herself out, without being silly? She feels stifled by her inability to connect with others who identify with a different orientation.

General conversation opened with the query,"What does it mean to be sexually oriented? Why can't we be "just sexual"? Various answers were given: it gives you a means of coping with the fear of rejection; it helps you find dates. Or maybe there's a larger issue at play here: each of us needs to identify with something; we all have a "natural need" to label things. There is also great political benefit to public identification; the Texas law that "illegalized certain sexual practices" was overturned by 10 years of social and political developments, as millions of people came out to their families, friends, colleagues and neighbors.

Having friends with whom we share our sexual orientation can become increasingly important as we age. In college, "everyone was androgynous, everyone was exploring," but with time, "people make choices in their lives that define them"--choices that make others feel excluded. Faced with the consequences of others' choices (faced in particular with the sense of multiple rights and privileges accorded straight people), lesbians may become increasingly passionate in wanting gay friends around us, to accompany us as we ask ourselves (for instance) what we should do w/ the multiple wedding invitations we receive, in this year of arguments about gay marriage.

It was suggested that straight people need the label of sexual orientation the least; they are "straight until proven otherwise." Claiming a group identity is about belonging, but one can also feel pressured by friendships built on shared identity. Such an identity can also operate as a stigma, or means of exclusion (checking out the Drag Ball or Rainbow Alliance, we can "feel the gaze," see how others are seeing us).

The question was posed: if issues of labeling ourselves in terms of our sexual orientation stem from experiences of oppression, and the need to identity with a larger group stems largely from the way such identification serves as a source of political power, what might happen if Emily's vision of fluidity "became real"? If everyone was free to explore without being stigmatized for doing so, would we still need to label and categorize one another? Would we still need to police the boundaries of those identities? It seems that there are "increasingly highly articulated subspecies of lesbian identity"; the increasing impulse to classify has become "almost fractal" in quality. Queerness is incessently categorized as "juvenile"; queers are excluded from the instititutions of adulthood. The "sexual force-field" seems so violent. Some of us refuse--and intend to continue refusing-- to be defined by it; others insist that society will nonetheless define us by our relationships. Will we accept those definitions? We hate to see the "ossification" that happens with time, because of the law; "it is a drag." But--because all the engines to define us are so firmly in place--it is a challenge to keep ourselves undefined.

Corrections, additions, further thoughts? Please add them here.


storming the chambers of my inner identity.
Name: orah
Date: //2004-04-18 10:34:29 :
Link to this Comment: 9414

am reminded of Q-forum at the begining of this year. there were some really powerful speakers at mine. the one i remember the most is someone who got up there and said that "she fell in love with people" and she wasn't concerned with gender. she was scared that once she left byrn mawr she wasn't going to be able to have this freedom to love.

that moves me.

what are we thinking when we create a world in which our identities restrict who we love? identities, who we say we ARE, can physically restrict our bodies? how has this world come about ? because i think it's utterly crazy and useless.

and another thing : about refusing definition. i've been thinking a lot this semester about plato's essences with those of you in the evolution class. and i think one of the reasons that we put so much weight behind definition is becuase we think that they are revealing an unchanging essence within. i am straight and it's just a matter of my figuring out my priorities. or, i am gay but havn't figured it out yet. but, the problem is that i don't think that essence exists. and so by saying that i refuse to define myself to you it's not like i'm hiding this great big secret, and it's not like i'm going to wake up one morning having discovered that secret. no. because there is no secret. if i ever decide to storm the chambers of my inner identity i'm not going to find a beautiful woman sitting on a chair saying, "essentially, you are a lebian," nor am i going to find a beautiful man telling me that i'm straight at heart and mind and bloodstream ...

and you know what? even if i did find that woman or man in my identity room i don't think i'd want to listen to what she/he had to say. i'd run away holding my ears screaming so i wouldn't hear. i want to love whom ever i FEEL that i love. and in my mind there is absolutly no way that this world was created where you can only fall in love with exactly 50% of the population. nope. i just don't buy it.

so, my long winded conclusion is that i think "the closet" and "the mainroom" and, by default, that ambiguous space in between are all figments of our imagination. THEY DON'T REALLY EXIST. sexuality is a kinda out of control thing ... something that takes over our bodies ... so we try to control it by parceling ourselves into rooms and into closets and doorways...
agree? disagree?
(am i argueing against biological indicators of sexuality ... humm...i didn't mean to, but i kinda guess i am ... maybe what i'm thinking is that bio. (the person sitting in the room...the sexual essence) is only part of it and while it is a part of it is cannot completely determine who you want to have sex with .... you do have a say .... )


Diversity & exclusion
Name: Frank LeFe
Date: //2004-04-18 17:51:36 :
Link to this Comment: 9418

I responded to an alert of new postings, after a long period of no such alerts, and found them.

I did not find my own prior posting on "Crosscultural Challenges to Neuropsychology's Brain Theories and Clinical Practice". Apparently it was deleted (afer a few days) by the Moderator, without even the courtesy of notifying me.

Had I been questioned on the relevance to issues discussed here, I could have entered into a dialogue which might ave been beneficial to all. As it is, I have been excluded from the discussion and the forum's participants have been excluded from an urgent dialogue on some real-world problems of cultural diversity.

F. Frank LeFever, Ph.D.
President, New York Neuropsychology Group
www.nyng.org
Member & Past-Chair, Advisory Committee of the Psychology Section, New York Academy of Sciences.
www.nyas.org


deleted forum postings
Name: Webmaster
Date: //2004-04-19 11:19:04 :
Link to this Comment: 9435

Your posting has been restored from backup; it was inadvertently deleted as it was adjacent to a posting looking for a penpal. Our policy is to remove spam postings as soon as we're aware of them (like grafitti removal) without notice. Sorry for the misunderstanding, but thanks for letting us know and giving us another chance to make it right.


Thanks! (diversity & exclusion)
Name: F. Frank L
Date: //2004-04-19 23:51:11 :
Link to this Comment: 9456

Thanks for salvaging my announcement of the conference on "Crosscultural Challenges to Neuropsychology's Brain Theories and Clinical Practice."

Attendance may be difficult for Bryn Mawr students & faculty, but we are in process of posting Abstracts and Suggested Readings on our website [www.nyng.org], and they may open interesting avenues for diversity discussion and perhaps for graduate training and career choices.

For those who might considering attending, I should point out that we have extended the deadline for Advance Registration to April 24 (because of transient closing of our online payment pages for repairs recently).

Actual attendance by someone from Bryn Mawr would require getting up very early in the morning, or arriving in NYC Friday evening (in the latter case, I can suggest some low-cost lodging).

Bottom line re the conference's messages:
(1) we are not currently able to serve patients (e.g. head trauma, stroke, MS) or other clients with assessment tools now available;
(2) recognition of this is not as widespread as it should be, efforts to remedy this tend to be "too little and too late", and in many cases need to be re-thought;
(3) besides the disadvantages for people from "other" backgrounds, there are some advantages in some aspects of bilingual functioning, worth study in their own right; (4) one surprising outcome of serious study of aphasia in bilinguals is a possibility for radical revision of traditional concepts of "lesion" or "damage".



Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-04-20 22:31:50 :
Link to this Comment: 9499

Very resonant w/ our recent conversation about Sexual Orientation and Perception at Bryn Mawr was a workshop this past Sunday, sponsored the Rainbow Alliance and a number of other groups, and led by a '96 BMC grad who transitioned from female to male after college. Daniel made it very clear to us that being transgendered was not a matter of sexual orientation, and I don't want to elide those terms here. However, many transpeople do "come through the gay community" ("I don't understand what's going on...I must be gay!"), and a great deal that Daniel had to say echoed and extended our Friday afternoon discussion in ways I found quite useful. I archive my account of the conversation here, both for the record and because others may find it useful as well.

Daniel began by tracing a range of ways of being trans: there are those who "don't feel congruent w/ themselves," who are strongly drawn to change their body type to align it w/ their felt sense of gender identity; there are also those who don't want to select a single gender. Because of all the complex, sometimes contradictory, ways of being trans, Daniel tried identifying the category in terms of common barriers (to access to learning about it, to health care, employment, marriage, parenting, legality of public restroom use....). The goals of trans allies are safety (both physical safety and creating a safe space for exploration), equal opportunity to resources, and community. One very important point was that none of these goals are trans-specific; the idea here is to help everyone know that they are not excluded in any way from full participation in the common public.

Discussion touched on matters of gender identity (how we want to be treated in the world), on gender being imposed on us ("don't treat me as some little twinkie girl"), on the contrary desire to pass (in a gender role that does not fit the body you are born with), on pronoun usage ("you don't need a pronoun if two people are talking to one another; you only need a pronoun for me if you are talking ABOUT me!"--but it is polite to ask folks what pronoun they prefer), on gender variance, severe gender dysporia (and its attendant anxiety), gender privilege (and the attendant need to work on breaking down power barriers), and--most helpful to me, because a genuinely new idea--gender intensity (that is, we might place ourselves on a spectrum that extends not from male to female, but that ranges rather from an intense identification w/ one gender to not feeling strongly drawn to either: "I wasn't comfortable in my gender identity, but I wasn't pulled to another"). There was much discussion about why we so need to identify gender, to fix others as either male or female. There seemed to be a general consensus that we are unable to "handle the influx of uncertainty and stress that comes w/ not being able to assign gender." (Although Daniel reported that, on the west coast, "any guy under 5'5" is assumed to be trans"; reading the code seems to be far more difficult on the east coast).

A second interesting cluster of ideas followed from Daniel's question about how to foster trans ally-ship institutionally. What emerged from that query was a clear report that Bryn Mawr "does not have a policy for anything." A comparison of our honor board proceedings w/ Haverford's (for instance) suggests a very different way of handling conflict: our code is more organic, more process-based, more contextualized and more individualized, whereas Haverford's (by report) is much more guided by rules (against which individual behavior is measured). We also acknowledged that every system will have unhappy people in it: replacing a two-gender binary system that doesn't work with a non-gendered-one-size-fits-all won't work for everyone, either.

We also discussed the point at which gender "labels become barriers"; what, for instance, is the logic of a woman's college, once we understand the broad range of gender variance, and the fluidity of the category "woman"? What, for another instance, is the logical coherence of LGBT groups, since the "t" does not indicate sexual orientation, as the other categories do? Has "queer" become an umbrella term that elides differences among these identity categories? Or has the group identity shifted, with the addition of "trans," so that it is no longer defined by sexual orientation, but rather constitutes an affiliation that is working against shared homophobia (any stigmatized reading of "gender variance") and against shared barriers against all varieties of gender expression?


Queerly provocative questions
Name: Frank LeFe
Date: //2004-04-21 18:09:11 :
Link to this Comment: 9523

I'm provoked to comment on thee questions:

"...What, for another instance, is the logical coherence of LGBT groups, since the "t" does not indicate sexual orientation, as the other categories do? Has "queer" become an umbrella term that elides differences among these identity categories? Or has the group identity shifted, with the addition of "trans," so that it is no longer defined by sexual orientation..."

I think it might be helpful to more explicitly in distinguish between concepts such as "gender identification" and "erotic orientation". Indeed, within the latter, an explicit sub-division such as Freud used: deviations of object vs. deviations of aim(?) (I think that was the term).

In the context of LBGT groupings, can one assume that (for example) a particular gender identification necessarily implies a specific (and limited) erotic orientation? If so, a specific object and aim?

If one accepts the idea that "gender identification" involves at least to some degree adopting "role behaviors" commonly seen as congruent with the self-identified gender, clearly there will be a mismatch in some cases of women erotically oriented towards women and some cases of men erotically oriented towrds men. In each gender group there will be some whose gender-role behaviors will be congruent with those of the wider society (as regards dress, mannerisms, etc.) and some whose gender-role behaviors will not be; they may further differ as to aim (e.g. various "passive" vs. various "active" erotic preferences) and share chiefly (only?) a preferred erotic object which sets them apart from others sharing their gender identification.

All in all, I think there's much to be said for "queer" as a common denominator which includes a varied and complex distinction from the wider society and at the same time a basis for shared concerns.

"...but rather constitutes an affiliation that is working against shared homophobia (any stigmatized reading of "gender variance") and against shared barriers against all varieties of gender expression?..."

Yes, except that I don't think that being "queer" in these broad but limited senses is not the only basis for affiliation against "homophobia and...gender variance". There are so many ways to be "queer" and "queer supportive" in our overly censorious and "sexually anxious" society!

THIS one is a real hum-dinger: "...We also discussed the point at which gender "labels become barriers"; what, for instance, is the logic of a woman's college, once we understand the broad range of gender variance, and the fluidity of the category "woman"?..."

--Frank


The Contradiction(s) of Change: A Report
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-05-03 14:16:21 :
Link to this Comment: 9751

Twenty-one of us gathered @ noon on April 30, 2004 to discuss "The Contradictions of Change," under the guidance of Nia Turner (BMC '06) and two long-time members of the Information Services Staff, Anne Slater and Florence Goff (to whom many thanks for this final session of the year's series of conversations on "Making Sense of Diversity.") Discussion was initiated in three ways. We all received a handout saying that

Change is a constant of the human condition, happening both to us and around us. It can be transformative, is sometimes scary, uncomfortable, contradictory, and exhilarating all at once. Consider these questions as we plan to talk about the "contradition(s) of change" and how it affects our growth as personal and public people:

  • What images does the phrase "Contradictions of Change" conjure up in your mind?
  • How has change led you to a different place in your life - a different way of being or thinking?
  • Think of change as being brought about by education and enlightenment - learning to see "the other" as yourself. What experience has brought you to see "the other" as yourself?
  • Which taboos/stereotypes are still alive and well at Bryn Mawr, and in society at large? Where are the contradictions in those taboos/stereotypes?

The presenters then told their own stories. Anne came to BMC as a student in the early '60s and very quickly learned here that she could not betray what was true of herself. Thirty years later, Nina decided to choose BMC over "other places that would have been more comfortable." She was surprised to discover that "black" took on a whole new definition here: she learned that black people did not form a homogenous group. Florence grew up in a segregated neighborhood in Greensboro, N.C. and attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she had a "life-changing" conversation with the single white student enrolled in this historically black university.

Nia, Anne and Florence also drew two ven diagrams to illustrate the questions they wanted us to explore together: the first of these represented the three of them in overlapping circles; the second showed the intersection of "you," "BMC" and "the big wide world." Asking us to consider these two analogous renditions--one personal, one more global--they invited us to describe our own "revelatory moments": those "times of tension in which we were changed."

The central tension that arose in the telling of these stories was between a strong reaction to the disempowering experiences of the first year, the resulting decision "not to let this place define or constrict us"--and the need for "being open to be changed by the different people and experiences we encounter"--in particular those which diverge from what we came here already knowing. Acknowledging that difference moves us forward, we also acknowledged that it is through "exquisite pain" that "we know we are growing." Faced with different values, we are forced both to find and exercise our own voices, and to acknowledge different experiences as valid as our own. It's a constant test of oneself, in confrontation with others: "who am I?" Each of us has to negotiate the contradiction between wanting to hold on to who we are, and adjusting to the "new me," the self being changed by Bryn Mawr.

Some of us have experienced "major strokes" (sharp encounters with social inequities, or an awareness that--despite our presumptions--we have internalized negative media messages about other groups). All of us know what a "petite stroke" feels like: it is the daily provocation to re-think who we are and what we believe in. And many of us have had the experience of being challenged at college, of absorbing some of those challenges, and then returning home to family and community who are invested in us, and "not feeling strong enough to own up to the changes within." Having to redefine our identity can be a very confusing process. Another complication occurs when the social change we have worked for starts to happen--particularly if the identity we assumed was "oppositional": what happens to our identity when such opposition is no longer necessary/becomes outmoded? (This query echoed the last diversity conversation, about "refusing to be defined by others" and the "ossification" that can happen over time, as we make choices about who we are.)

It was also suggested that consciousness "might be a minus," that the constant questioning of identity that comes w/ awareness, the constant asking of "should I change? should I not?" might be negotiated not in terms of "major moments," but rather with the acknowledgment that we, like all things, are always changing. The process of change may entail, for some of us, a series of "ah ha" moments; for others, it might be one of easy evolution.

Florence, Anne and Nia closed the session by inviting awareness of the choices all of us are making, all of the time, as we change and grow.


keeping house--in a tent
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-05-16 12:03:37 :
Link to this Comment: 9897

Anna Devere Smith's marvelous performance @ yesterday's Convocation serves well as an epilogue to this year's series of diversity conversations (as well as bookmark, perhaps opener for the next?). In a series called "Women's Work," she performed vignettes of various interviews she'd done, w/ Studs Turkel, a Hassidic Jew, a Korean liquor-store owner, and a final one of Margaret Mead in conversation w/ Jimmy Baldwin: each of them stepping out from what they knew, to encounter what they did not. Each of them doing the hard work of "keeping house" in a place that was neither closed nor secure. All performed under the great graduation tent. All in the service of a take-home/take-away message(s):

"Pack your tent.
Get out of the safe house.
Go into the crossroads of ambiguity.
Seek out difference. "



Name: Dee Owen
Date: //2004-08-23 11:41:10 :
Link to this Comment: 10683

Radnor ABC has an unexpected opening for a male tutor, starting in September. The position is part-time and provides room and board. Would you kindly post the job description below. We are looking for people who truly enjoy working with teens in a multicultural setting. Our students are African-American, Hispanic and Native American.

Thank you.

Dee Owen -- 610-687-4712

A Better Chance (Radnor) Seeks Male Tutor

The Radnor Chapter of A Better Chance, a nationwide program providing educational opportunities to talented students of color, is seeking a resident male tutor. This is an unpaid, part-time, live-in position. Room and board are provided year-round.

Staff consists of a resident director, four resident tutors and a part-time cook. They provide a family-like environment and gives academic and personal support to 10 ABC scholars, who live in the ABC House in Wayne, PA, and attend Radnor High School.

We are seeking college graduates with strong math and/or reading and writing skills who are committed to working with teenagers in a multicultural setting. Driving/car ownership is a plus.

For more information, contact Dee Owen at dorie.owen@att.net or Florence Hubert, 610-647-0475, or fax a resume and cover letter to the Radnor ABC board of directors at 610-687-6967. You may also visit the national ABC Web site on-line at www.abetterchance.org.


different culture behavior in the health care envi
Name: greenapple
Date: //2005-02-02 00:29:45 :
Link to this Comment: 12429

Hello, I am registered in a medical assistant program and as a homework assignment, I need to find out some cultural dislikes. Or you can just tell me what you may find rude or different that us americans do that your culture does not. For example; Japanese-Americans like greet us by a simple bow instead of a hand shake.