Topic of Conversation:
“8:30 – 9:30: Unpacking Yale and Mizzou. We’ll discuss the events transpiring at Yale and at the University of Missouri, and our reactions. Specifics will vary depending on the crowd, but I imagine touching on some or all of the following questions: What happened? What’s the history? What are peoples’ (both personal and general) reactions?
9:30 – 10:30: Race at Olin in light of Yale + Mizzou. We’ll be focusing on the roles we as individual students play – especially through the lenses of race* – and how that shapes the Olin community. This is a topic that I’m still working out my thoughts on, and I hope this will provide a space where we all can do so.
* It feels as if I’ve said a dirty word. These are not supposed to be easy, comfortable conversations to have – but important ones rarely are. I hope you’ll come to listen and/or share.”
In the week or two preceding November’s Cultural Conversations, my Facebook feed exploded with activity first from friends studying at Yale, then from my undergraduate peers changing their statuses in solidarity with the black University of Missouri students who were receiving death threats via YikYak.
The same kind of activism, let alone discussion or even acknowledgement, was absent at Olin. Despite the radio silence, however, the racially charged events were certainly on some Oliners’ minds.
I couldn’t predict what directions the discussion would take, but I hoped to create a space that would recognize these events, and let participants unpack their reactions as they came.
For the first part, Unpacking Yale and Mizzou, I printed and distributed these articles:
The New Intolerance of Student Activism (this was one of the articles posted on Facebook; referenced earlier)
I summarized the articles as attendees read through them.
The positives and negatives of Christakis’ email.
What is cultural appropriation? What makes a culturally appropriative costumes?
Was Christakis’ email merited? What is the role of an associate master? Or a master?
The journalist being pushed out. What of free speech, then?
For the second part, how race stands at Olin,
Notes and feedback:
Attendance: Though the official time block was set to be 8:30 – 10:30, the majority of the attendees stayed long past. When I left at midnight, there were still ~15 students deep in discussion. There were around 30-35 unique faces total, with juniors and first-years mostly represented. There were ~5 drop-ins – folks who were wandering past, found the conversation riveting, and decided to stay.
Topic reception: I think the open-ended nature of the second portion allowed for more exploration, which meant that more people stayed. I think
Frequency (once a month) is good. Once a month allows for enough
Facilitation still a weak point. This was particularly exacerbated by the fact that this was a more open-ended discussion. There were no points that I particularly wanted to bring up, especially since I would be a biased facilitator.