Posse seeks to increase awareness
The Posse Plus Retreat, which took place last weekend at the Portland Sheraton Hotel, brought together about fifty Posse and non-Posse students, faculty and staff in a discussion forum of issues ultimately relating to the Bowdoin campus.
Over the past few years, Bowdoin has placed more of an emphasis in promoting diversity on campus. One of the primary venues for success in this field has been with the Posse Foundation over the past three years. Bowdoin's most recent efforts have placed it at the top among New England private schools and their involvement with Posse.
The Posse Foundation, according to its website (possefoundation.org), "identifies, recruits and selects student leaders from public high schools to form multicultural teams called 'posses.'"
In many attempts by universities and colleges, such as Bowdoin, to diversify their campus along racial, ethnic, cultural and class lines, retention of those students became a major issue. Many minority students felt isolated and out of place when they attended colleges and universities with limited diversity. The Posse Foundation aims to provide those missing support networks for the students it selects to better ensure that they will remain at the college or university they are currently attending. It also aims to "serve as a catalyst for increased individual and community development from diverse backgrounds to develop consensus solutions to complex social problems," according to its website.
"The retreat is a catalyst for dialogue," Gloria Lopez, Director of Posse Boston said. "We discuss lots of issues and the retreat allows for a more open discussion of those topics."
Paul Min '03 thought "the retreat provided an environment where people feel comfortable to talk about issues when normally they skirt around the issue."
Some of the matters discussed in the retreat's workshops began on a global scale with screen images of racism, war, and poverty aimed at provoking smaller group discussions about complex social issues. As the retreat progressed, similar issues were brought into context, specifically for the Bowdoin community and how different students feel they are treated because of their race, class, gender, religion or sexuality. Posse's emphasis in these workshops is twofold: global concerns are connected to campus issues and dialogue is essential in addressing such topics.
As Richie Hoang '06 of Posse III points out, "Things in the world affect Bowdoin, such as poverty, racism and war."
One workshop, in particular, focused on how particular ethnic, social or gender groups are treated within the Bowdoin community. A small group of Asian American students sat in the middle of the room, deeply engaged in a conversation, while the rest of the retreat members served as the audience, listening attentively to catch a glimpse of how some Asian Americans feel on Bowdoin's campus.
One student mentioned the need for an Asian American professor on campus, not only to serve as an academic but also for mentoring purposes for Asian American students. Another student felt intimidated with so few other Asian Americans on campus and resorted to staying within a familiar group of friends. Yet another talked about how the dining hall setup really illustrates how students often gather into familiar groups with students of color sitting in one place and white students sitting elsewhere.
Andria Ramkissoon '05, a member of Posse II, says that the retreat provides a unique opportunity for a diverse group of Bowdoin students to engage in important dialogue. "We talk about issues that would not normally be talked about on campus."
Posse, however, hopes to expand the dialogue on issues of race, gender, sexuality, and other topics to the rest of the Bowdoin campus, so they are not exclusive discussions to the members of the Posse Plus retreat. With dialogue, challenging social matters can be addressed and effectively discussed on campus, but only time will tell if the retreat continues these important discussions on a more campus-wide scale.