insert invitation here

Nineteen of us responded to this invitation. 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,

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:

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."