During the week of April 19 several student led “race forums” were held to facilitate discussion between students concerning issues of race on the Williams campus.
The forums formed out of a series of Op-Ed articles which appeared in the Record during Black History Month. After having each written several articles, Tim Karpoff ’01 and Mike Woltz ’00 met to discuss how to make students more aware of race on the campus. According to Karpoff, one of the reasons the two decided to hold the forums was to show people who do not perceive race relations as an issue on this campus how acute the issue actually is.
After formulating the idea for the forum, Karpoff and Woltz searched for potential participants by attending entry snacks, sending emails to campus organizations, and by sending out an all-campus email. Participants then met at several different times over the course of the week in groups of 10-25 students and a student moderator. The role of the moderator was to facilitate an open discussion on topics which seemed to interest the group and to lead the group to other topics at appropriate times. According to Karpoff, some of the topics discussed at the forums included the role of minority groups on campus, where the responsibility lies for progress on this issue, the self-segregation of the campus, and race relations between all races, not just black and white.
Karpoff said that one of important issues which was discussed was student apathy on the campus. Karpoff said that one of the conclusions reached by the groups was that “Williams students may not be apathetic, but self-interested.”
For Karpoff the forums were a success just based on the number of participants. About one hundred people participated in the forums, which is a much higher number than Karpoff and Woltz had expected from a school such as Williams.
Although he views the program as a success, Karpoff said that no major steps have been made in producing better race relations on campus. “It’s a start, but as for accomplishment the issue is too big. If you want to effect real change people have to do it themselves,” said Karpoff. “It’s not going to change unless we want it to.”