Posted by Adrian Appleman
At 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26 in Gannett Auditorium, about 200 students and faculty attended the "What Will Move Us to Act?: Understanding and Interrupting Bias" lecture by guest speaker Dr. Frances Kendall.
Kendall has produced books, lectures and run workshops regarding diversity and white privilege. She is known for her hands-on approach to emphasize bias in communities.
Kendall's central message throughout the night was that bias is recognized but not addressed in institutions throughout the country. She argued that despite many efforts to the contrary, Skidmore College had fostered a public space that caters primarily to white heterosexual males.
Mariel Martin, director of Student Diversity Programs was very pleased with the discussion. "I loved how eager the community was to engage in the conversation," she said, "and I loved even more that most folks stuck around."
In the workshop portion, audience members filled out a "stereotype roadmap," elucidating "which side of the track" each audience member was on. Kendall asked how people felt about categorizing themselves.
She then asked for certain people to stand if they had they checked a certain box, which offered a clear picture of the majorities in the room. With this, Kendall introduced the thesis of her presentation: the creation of "Public Space."
This lecture was one of many that Martin hopes to organize for the college community. The reason Kendall came to campus so early in the semester was to kick start the discussion about diversity. "We have to start early, and then keep with it," explains Martin, "because by midterms, people's memory starts to fade."
"A lot of times it feels like we're preaching to the choir," said Martin, "but I did see quite a few new faces, and it felt like folks were listening."
More presentations on bias and diversity will occur throughout the course of the semester. Students and faculty hope that Kendall's presentation will help jumpstart the discussion that will hopefully bring further institutional change to the college.
"It is important, for the sake of our community," urged Martin, "that after lectures like the one Kendall made, we continue to ask ourselves, 'What do we do now?' "