Last Wednesday evening, Frances Kendall, renowned expert on diversity and privilege, visited campus to lead two workshops on white privilege. The first four-hour morning workshop was held in Daggett Lounge for approximately 70 faculty and staff members, while the evening session for students was cancelled a couple hours before it was scheduled to start.
Students who had signed up to participate received an email from Benjamin Harris, director of the student center for multicultural life, citing “unforeseen circumstances” as the reason for the cancellation.
Harris decided to bring Kendall after meeting her at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education, an annual five day event featuring workshops and presentations by leaders in the diversity and education fields.
“I’ve been in day-long workshops with her and I think she has a powerful message,” Harris said. “She finds a way to really engage with people around issues of whiteness, white privilege, what that means [and] how that manifests itself in systems and institutions.”
Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion & Diversity and Director of the Center for Sexuality, Women, and Gender Kate Stern said the need for an event on white privilege and racism came from discussions with the Intergroup Dialogue on Race and Inclusion, Diversity and Student Affairs team.
She hoped the event would allow faculty and staff to gain a new understanding about their privilege and position.
“I’m hoping [the] staff and faculty develop some confidence and competence and skills in thinking about what each of our roles are on campus related to race and racism,” Stern said.
Rachel Reinke, associate director of the Sexuality, Women and Gender Center, attended the workshop and found it to be thought-provoking and engaging.
“I think that it was [a] really a good chance to talk about things that we don’t talk a lot about at Bowdoin,” said Reinke. “[Kendall] lectured a little bit, but we also talked a lot at tables … she would pose questions, and then we would reflect on them. We [also] did some individual writing exercises.”
Reinke said that an added benefit for participants of the workshop was the opportunity to interact with members of the Bowdoin community.
“It was nice to talk to other colleagues. There was a really wide representation throughout campus,” she said. “There were faculty and staff from Student Affairs, Academic Affairs and there [were] also folks from housekeeping [and the] Organic Garden. It was a really amazing opportunity to connect with folks that I don’t usually get to on an everyday basis.”