Where Does Passion Lead?

As the College community continues to grapple with how we can better address is- sues of hate and discrimination, it is clear that true passion lies behind the discussion of how to improve the College’s culture. After pushing the administration to cancel classes on Nov. 14, the student movement has coalesced as Students Against Silence (SAS). Meanwhile, the administration is forming a committee in order to clarify the College’s protocol for response to similar incidents of overt discrimination. It seems certain that good will continue to come from the hateful words scrawled in Prospect on Nov. 12.

Yet SAS remains, to much of the com- munity, an indistinct entity. The leaders of SAS have reached out to the entire cam- pus calling for applications to the organi- zational committee they are creating – but their all-campus e-mail did not say what SAS’s mission is, or the specific responsi- bilities of the committee besides organiz- ing the task forces. It is difficult to unite behind an organization that lacks a clear structure and methodology for affecting change; students need to know how SAS’s task forces will evaluate proposed policy changes. For now, the leaders creating the SAS committee are the voice of the move- ment. We believe that the leaders need to send another e-mail to the campus that further describes what involvement in the organizing committee will entail, that presents SAS’s mission statement and that details the categories of the proposals that the SAS task forces will address. These are critical elements of SAS that will deter- mine its long-term viability as an agent of change at the College, and we feel that

the community should be well-informed in these formative stages. Once informed, we as a community can contribute effec- tively. The e-mail should also solicit a sec- ond round of applicatations from students who will have a clearer sense of the role they will be playing if selected as a com- mittee member.

SAS has thus far received dozens of pro- posed policy changes, and it is reasonable to assume that some of these ideas will be implemented at the College in time. As the committee assesses proposals over the com- ing weeks and months, the student leaders spearheading the movement would do well to reach out actively to administrators, as well as the staff at the Multicultural Center (MCC), an organization dedicated to social issues and activism of exactly the sort that is now occur- ring on campus. The MCC has the capacity to provide increased leadership and structure to the movement, to assist the student lead- ers in reviewing and evaluating proposals and to relieve the student leaders of some of the logistical burden of this movement. To fail to solicit their assistance and wealth of knowl- edge would, we feel, be a grave mistake on the part of the SAS leadership.

From the list of proposals that SAS has collected thus far, it is apparent that students see many arenas through which education on prejudice can be furthered. Proposals on the table range from more neighborhood programming to increased JA training to revising the Exploring Di- versity Initiative course requirement. We hope that certain proposals that appear straightforward to implement, such as an open mic event at Claiming Williams and a broad institutional review of diversity training practices, will be enacted as soon as possible. But with the broader multitude of proposals, we encourage the upcoming SAS committee, as well as the administration, to consider solutions with an academic focus. Too often, we consider issues of diversity and activism to be pure- ly extra-curricular issues, when in fact it is those things we learn in the classroom that inform our social experience at the College and beyond. We understand that large, institutional change can often be difficult, especially when it comes to the classroom, but we hope that leaders will think critically about diversity as it applies to academics, the most central part of our College experience.

Looking towards Winter Study and next semester, there is a lot riding on ev- ery element of the SAS movement. The committee that is ultimately formed and the movement that it organizes must in- corporate the voices of every facet of our community – including, and especially, those arguing against significant change. The proposals for which the movement ultimately advocates must be ones that comprehensively consider both the aca- demic and social lives of students at the College. And most importantly, whatever actions are taken going forward, the pas- sion that has been built up over the past month must not be lost, as it often has in the College’s long history. As vital and powerful as the short-term response has been to the hate crime, the long-term re- sponse is even more important. We are now moving into that long-term response, and our attention and energy are vital for this movement to flourish.