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Comments from the November 28, 2007 Conversation Dinner

Conversation Dinner

November 28, 2007

5:00p.m. – 7:00p.m.

College Center Multi-purpose Room

Breaking the Cycle:  Seeing Patterns in Isolated Incidents

In recent years, several offensive, hateful symbols or messages have negatively impacted the campus community.  This conversation will focus on proactive ways to address campus climate issues.

Notes on Large Discussion

  • Address issues (re: Race) not just around a specific incident, but rather in the larger context
  • Acknowledge that there is a cycle and should proceed to “break” the cycle
  • It’s hard for students to acknowledge there is a problem because then there would have to be some admittance of privilege, and of benefiting from the problem.
  • Who is in the room?  i.e. those that will talk about it, vs. those that don’t participate
  • What structures are present in the system to allow for all campus discussions (Ex. Fran Fest = closed down, All College Day =?)  Should there be a “course requirement”?
  • Content related to hate symbols are talked about (by faculty) in class; however, whether students want to connect this to outside the classroom is questionable.  Similarly, will book learning carry to the outside?
  • Inequities operate before a student arrives here.
  • Vassar is a business, and reacts to incidents from this vantage point.
  • Need for “safe spaces” beyond the ALANA and Blegen Centers.  *example: Should Vassar put measures in place to make the campus more inviting?
  • People don’t want to acknowledge that bad things happen “within” the Vassar bubble.  Therefore, negative incidents are minimized, and complacency can arise
  • Faculty (and all) can model ways of reacting positively, vs. being in denial about evil, and choosing wrong  (otherwise students can “file away” processing incidents to being only a part of the classroom experience).
  • How can senior administrators offer a response?  How can student coalitions “pressure” a response and coming together for discussion?  Or what would it be like if the president called an all-campus meeting to respond to incidents?…or, can question be posed “Is Vassar the place for you?” to those who offend?  (example similar to when a student cheats)

Wrap Up

  • Connecting ideas of student conduct, community values, and administrative response (including consequences).
    • Vassar needs to follow-up on tenets outlined in its Mission Statement
  • Question the idea that Vassar is comprised of “spaces” and look at it as a community
  • Cappy as spokesperson carrying all one voice is one thing, but “what if” campus groups (i.e. students, faculty, etc.) were to call an all campus meeting?

Notes by Lawrence Cerecedes, PhD