Posse retreats to discuss race
Last weekend Posse scholars invited friends and faculty to join them at the Posse Plus Retreat, where they discussed racial issues and the lack of interracial interaction on Bowdoin's campus.
Participants discussed the College's reaction to race-based issues and incidents that occur on campus. This dialogue was sparked by the incidents that occurred during and after the Black History Month coffeehouse in Jack McGee's Pub on February 11.
The Posse Program recruits public high school students who demonstrate outstanding leadership and academic achievement to form multicultural teams called "Posses." There are four Posse teams at Bowdoin and each of them represents one of the current four class years.
Staff members of the Posse Boston group facilitated the weekend activities and were assisted by Bowdoin Posse Scholars. Workshops addressed issues that are present both globally and here at Bowdoin. Diversity was a major topic, as was the idea of fitting in and becoming a part of the in-crowd.
The group also addressed inclusion and exclusion on campus. The popular consensus among the students at the retreat was that the "in-crowd" at Bowdoin is athletes. Some students feel that in order to become a part of this social bubble they must step out of character, which forces them to sacrifice the practice of their accustomed and cultural behavior.
Other students argued differently and made clear distinctions between adapting to a new environment and trying to fit in.
"Stepping out of one's comfort zone is not to be confused with stepping out of one's character. In order to adapt to a new environment one must learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable," said Savannah Briscoe '06.
While most culture groups are focused on generating a strong presence on campus by uniting members of the same race, others who are not of the particular race may feel excluded. Cultural club presidents state that they welcome students of all races and ethnic backgrounds to join their clubs.
"Since the 2002 academic year we have opened our group to the entire campus," said Michael Chang '02 president of KASA (Korean American Students' Association). "We currently have two African-American members, one Caucasian student, and one Taiwanese student."
Riquelmy Sosa '05, president of the Bowdoin Caribbean Student Alliance, said that the purpose of the BCSA is to promote Caribbean culture on campus while creating a safe space for all students. "BCSA is an inclusive organization that does not discriminate on any grounds. We encourage difference and diversity within our organization. Our mission is to increase knowledge and foster appreciation of the Caribbean region," said Sosa.
Both students and faculty contributed insightful and mind stimulating ideas to the diverse conversations. Danielle Sommer, a Posse 1 scholar, set the tone for one of the discussions by stating that diversity is not solely about race, but also about socioeconomic background and a lot of other things. Students are pleased with the continuous increase in the number of minority students on campus but feel that numbers aren't the issue. The goal students are striving to achieve is social interaction between minority students and non-minorities.
"Everyone knows that Bowdoin has physically become more diverse; however, what's imperative is that the student body begins to socialize in a manner that represents our diverse community," said Posse 3 scholar Hosheus Isaac. Isaac added that social interaction between all color-lines, socio-economic-lines, religious-lines, and sexual-lines, is the only way for Bowdoin to begin to embrace a community that caters to the diversity that is present on campus. "It all begins with conversation."
In one of the activities, students brainstormed ideas on how to promote this diverse social interaction. One of the ideas is to redefine the Bowdoin "hello." While greeting people and exchanging smiles throughout the day is heartwarming and courteous, students would like this encounter to become an opportunity to introduce themselves to new people and make new friends. Another wise idea is to have a friend invite a friend who you don't know to dinner.
To take advantage of and implement what was learned at the retreat, the entire group of students had a huge group dinner in Thorne Dining Hall when they returned to campus, occupying three long tables.
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