Offers New Diversity Training for House Reps
Annie Berman ‘15
In August, two
elected diversity representatives from each house returned
to Smith early to participate in an intensive two-day training
session. It would be the students’ job to act as advocates and information resources
for their housemates.
The new training is part of
the college’s response to racially
insensitive incidents on campus last spring that shook the Smith community and
sparked charged conversations across campus about how to combat intolerance.
I spoke to Diversity Chair MacKenzie
Hamilton ’13, and two diversity reps, Micah
Collins-Sibley ’15 and Brittany Bennett ’15 about their training, and about their
roles in their houses.
Student representatives participated
in a series of workshops that focused on different aspects
of diversity and systems of oppression; on combating racism,
classism and sexism, for example. They defined different
issues and discussed how to combat them in houses. In one
workshop, they discussed the importance of making sure house
councils are sensitive to class difference, and inclusive
Another major way the representatives
plan to be more active this year is through a number of subcommittees,
called “working groups,” that
will address diversity concerns as they arise.
“I’m on a working group to try to make the support systems on campus more accessible,
and make sure there are more of them,” said Collins-Sibley. “Right now, we have
health services and the resource center for sexuality and gender, located in
the basement of Haven-Wesley, which is mostly a space for groups to hold meetings,
but has a limited staff. We’d like to change that.”
There is also a publicity and
journalism working group, created with the goal of making
issues of diversity more public, and advertising events that
address social justice issues. Other groups are working with
the House President Association, Student Government Association,
and Counseling Services to start or reenergize conversations
about diversity and social justice and make Smith a more
aware and supportive place.
The representatives have been
busy creating ways to educate and support the Smith community.
Recently, they devised an initiative
Assumption Project,” which Collins-Sibley described as a way of “bringing to
the surface how damaging making assumptions about other people’s identities can
be. We tried to think of a way to make students aware of diversity without putting
them on the spot or making them feel unsafe.”
Diversity representatives are
happy with the conversations their training helped start,
and feel that their roles as will be more meaningful and
significant going forward.