Williams hosts Beyond the Box Conference this weekend

Williams will welcome an influx of students, faculty and speakers to participate in the third annual Beyond the Box conference, which the College hosts next weekend, Feb. 25-27.

Aimed at encouraging multiculturalism at small liberal arts colleges, the conference will bring to the College approximately 100 students, faculty and staff from over 25 liberal arts colleges.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Community and Diversity: Resolving the Tensions.”

According to Anita Doddi, assistant to the director of the Multicultural Center (MCC), Beyond the Box recognizes the paradoxical goals of encouraging community building and celebrating diversity.

The conference seeks to address these issues by creating an environment that fosters the sharing of information, experiences and strategies designed to create change on the campuses of the participants.

“Beyond the Box refers to the box that is our own concept of what constitutes education, particularly a good liberal arts education,” said Tim Sams, assistant dean and director of the Black Cultural Center at Swarthmore College.

Previous conferences held at Swarthmore and Wellesley College have hosted on average about 70 visitors, but Doddi is not daunted by this year’s increased attendance. “We can definitely handle it,” she said. “We are very prepared.” Faculty and staff will stay in various hotels in and around the College, while visiting students will camp out in common rooms or share rooms with other Williams students.

The conference will begin Friday at 5:30 p.m. with an informal dinner before officially starting at 9 p.m. with a keynote address from Kip Fulbeck, professor of Asian-American Studies and art history at the University of California at Santa Barbara. According to his biography, Fulbeck“combine[s] stand-up comedy with a powerful and politically charged edge”in his speeches.

Students will participate in four of the 14 workshop presentations and panel discussions taking place throughout the weekend in Griffin Hall. The discussions will all be led by Williams students and faculty.

Panel discussions and workshops include “Diversity Within Athletics: Why Aren’t We Achieving This?,” “Shades of Purple: Community at Williams,” “The Asian-American Identity Crisis” and “The Social Construction of Sexuality: Hard Hats Recommended.”

According to some officials and participants, multicultural events on campus in the past have suffered from a lack of student diversity.

The conference hopes to change this and cultivate new interest in the cultural events on campus.

“Hopefully the conference will spark new interest among those Williams students who usually do not attend events and forums concerning race relations,” said Royce Smith ’01, president of the Black Student Union (BSU).

One reason the event may draw particular interest is its focus on student performance and cultural events.

The conference will culminate with a showcase of student talent in performances in Goodrich Hall at 8 p.m., followed by parties at Rice House and Hardy House at 10 p.m.

Doddi encouraged Williams students to take advantage of the opportunities for socializing and discourse. She emphasized that the conference is “open to everyone, not only for minorities.”

The MCC relishes this conference as an opportunity to create more change and dialogue both on campus and between campuses. According to Sams, “[We seek to] urge others to try to reach beyond this box and envision what education could be.”

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