This weekend Williams hosted the third annual Beyond the Box Conference, titled, “Community and Diversity: Resolving the Tensions.” The conference brought to the College approximately 65 students and staff from other liberal arts colleges who participated in workshops and discussions aimed at fostering stronger relationships on culturally diverse campuses. Among the liberal arts colleges represented were Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Dartmouth and Smith.
The conference commenced on an excellent note on Friday night as keynote speaker Kip Fulbeck delivered a speech that was to become the highlight of the conference.
His speech focused on his observations of people’s reactions to his Asian-American ancestry and included everything from stand-up comedy to family anecdotes.
After his speech Fulbeck invited interested audience members to meet him. This invitation was greeted by a wave of approval though the crowd. Fulbeck sparked an anticipatory note for the ensuing events among attendants who heard his speech.
Saturday was filled with workshops most of which had good attendance and as participation. The workshops were directed well-prepared moderators who encouraged honest and occasionally controversial discussions and opinions.
The workshops that had the most participants were “Translating Difference” led by Kendra Field ’94 and Anim Steel ’94 and “Keeping it Real” with Tim Sands from Swarthmore College. Other workshops included “Issues in Census 2000,” led by professor of political science and director of the MCC Alex Willingham, “The Social Construction of Sexuality: Hard Hats Recommended,” facilitated by Stephen Collingsworth, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered (LGBT) Coordinator and “Diversity Within Athletics: Why Aren’t We Achieving This?” moderated by Medha Kirtane ’00.
There was very positive response towards the content of the workshops. One student was quite pleased at the inclusion of a panel that was directed towards Asian-Americans. She felt that until now there had been neglect towards Asian-American issues as far as contemplation and discussion are concerned.
Many participants left Williams having shared and learned new strategies designed to implement change in their respective environments.
Anita Doddi, assistant to the director of the Multicultural Center (MCC), was pleased at the number of Williams’ students who turned up.
Doddi said she was “extremely impressed at the number and types of people who came and it wasn’t just the same people that I always see at MCC and MinCo events so I’m glad to reach a wider audience. Williams has consistently had little diversity in attendance to multicultural events but hopefully Beyond the Box has helped to broaden the views of the campus on ‘cultural’ events.”
The conference’s theme of diversity was closely observed and reflected in the variety of acts on the Student Performances on Saturday night. Organized by Renee Robinson ’02 and Elizabeth Rha ’02, the performances offered a wide range of acts including a bluegrass duo, singing groups, hip-hop and African drumming.
According to Doddi, Williams has from all appearances hosted a near flawless conference and has given Dartmouth College, which will host Beyond the Box IV, a high standard to follow.
Doddi, who directed the organization of the conference, has no regrets, except that she would like to have see more faculty involvement. She thinks that faculty input and leadership is integral in initiating change in the college community. Only two professors from the College were seen in attendance at the conference and none of the participating schools brought any professors.
According to Doddi, Beyond the Box III has succeeded in many of its aims not least of which was to create a network of young people bent on creating change in their environment. She feels, however, that it is important to note that these conferences are only one small and step in the direction of achieving multi-culturalism.
“Building bridges and making connections with students from other colleges is the most inspiring part,” Doddi said, “because you realize that you are not isolated or alone in the cause you are fighting for and knowing that others are working towards similar goals is really inspiring.”