Among the actions taken by the Council for Equality and Community (CEC) thus far, one of the most ground-breaking is the faculty development seminar scheduled to start in Spring 2009. According to the CEC, this “Social Justice Leadership and Service Learning” seminar will help make faculty members more understanding. Most crucially, it will end the inherent bias that many Lehigh classes have against certain groups of people. The seminar promises to “guide participants through the process of understanding the diversity of individuals in their classes and how to design effective instruction that is responsive to all students’ prior experiences and unique learning needs.” It will also make sure faculty “become more aware of their own racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, cultural identities and the power and privilege that comes with them,” and teach them to “incorporate field-specific diversity topics” into their classes.
Archive for February, 2009
The US and the Czech Republic have had a rocky alliance history, but since the defeat of Communism the two states have grown closer together. Despite the radical asymmetry in size and power, since 1989 the Czech Republic has been a valuable ally to the United States.
Attending Obama’s inauguration was an interesting experience for me, to say the least. I have been to the last two inaugurations, both for President Bush. I wondered how an inauguration for President Obama would differ. I also wondered if it would be a positive or negative experience for me, being an Obama detractor.
This year, for Martin Luther King Day, the University put together several days of lectures and talks to consider the diversity issues of the campus and to coincide with the inauguration of President Obama. On the twenty-first of January, there was a luncheon summit with nine professors representing nearly every relevant academic department talking about their research in terms of black issues and Martin Luther King. The core of the discussion centered on the matter of opposing injustice, though it repeatedly touched on the theme of this week’s events. Perhaps the most interesting perspective on the concept of Remaining Awake came from Ziad Munson, adjunct professor of Sociology and Anthropology: “For me, being awake is making sure that we – this generation and the next generation – are well educated. We have to look at K-12 and that needs to be revised, because, at that level, if we continue to do a terrible job, then we might not see our position improve.”
What would Lehigh look like if it were truly a diverse and equal community? The CEC (Council for Equity and Community) is looking to create that kind of community and it sees serious flaws with Lehigh today. The good news is that the CEC doesn’t discriminate – it sees racism in every single person at Lehigh. Students need more classes that explain diversity and a curriculum that works those classes into a student’s schedule. Faculty members need a “Social Justice Leadership and Service Learning” seminar. For the Administration, the CEC will be meeting with the deans “to identify plans in place to diversify the faculty and retain underrepresented personnel” and to print a “diversity statement” on all recruitment and application materials. Clearly, future students are racist too.
Considering how much this country has a history of intolerance toward people of every ethnicity, I am surprised that people even care about this country. Can you really love something that, throughout history, has done everything but love you back? Then I realize that it’s the people like Martin Luther King, Jr. that advocate and campaign for change so persistently that they restore people’s faith in the potential of this country. This was, at least, my reasoning while pondering the extension of King Day, which wasn’t even a national holiday until 22 years ago, to an entire week here at Lehigh.
The Monday of King Week, I reported to the Multicultural Room to attend what I thought was going to be Nikki Giovanni reading a few of her poems before her keynote address on Wednesday. I was quite taken aback, however, when I got there, sat in the circle, and an earmarked copy of one of her poetry books was handed to me. I was encouraged to select a poem that had meaning to me, and read it in front of everyone there. Me? Reading someone else’s poetry? In public? A stenograph of my thought process over the following ten seconds would rival most Tom Clancy novels in length. Would they chase me if I got up and ran away? Flipping through the pages I was hard pressed to find a poem I would be comfortable reading. Did I want to read the poem entitled “Swaziland”? I hear the life expectancy there is 29. I could read the short one called “Rain,” but I don’t especially feel like saying the phrase “God’s sperm” in front of seven complete strangers right now. And, unfortunately, the lady before me had already read Giovanni’s “No Reservations,” so any chance of solace through pretending Anthony Bordain wrote what I was about to read had been vaporized. Appropriately enough, I settled on a poem called “Choices,” which ended up conveying the message that one needs to spin whatever life hands you for the better.
Just when I thought I was done and safe, one of the individuals at the poetry reading questioned me as to why I had chosen that particular poem. Refraining from confessing, “Because it was short,” I replied that, “Honestly, I would have been uncomfortable reading any of the others I saw.” Without so much as a five second pause, someone interpreted my hesitance and made light of the situation, saying something to the effect of, “So you actually see that much of her own identity in the poetry!”
Wow, that was actually it. They say “All the world’s a stage, the men and women merely players,” but Giovanni’s words were too powerful for me to play, or even read, while sitting down. I left the Multicultural Room a tad shaken up, but anxious to hear Giovanni speak later in the week.
On Wednesday night, a brief opening performed by Provost Mohamed El-Aasser introduced Giovanni as a professor of writing and literature at Virginia Tech. Giovanni was, in fact, responsible for speaking at the convocation commemorating the 27 students murdered in the 2007 shooting. She is also the recipient of 25 honorary degrees and holds the keys to more than two dozen cities. Furthermore, she was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award, and has been named Woman of the Year by Ebony magazine and dubbed the “Princess of Black Poetry.”
So if Martin Luther King, Jr. was a firm believer in the power of the spoken word, who better to bring to campus than this poet and civil rights advocate Nikki Giovanni? Many audience members apparently thought the same, as Giovanni received a standing ovation from numerous individuals as she shuffled across the stage to the podium.
Wasting no time, Giovanni began by reiterating that it is the time of year during which many people travel and lose track of exactly what day it is. But this day, she said, everyone knew what day it was- January 21st. Why? Because yesterday was January 20th, Inauguration Day. Adhering to the biography on her webpage, her “outspokenness” was unquestionable; Giovanni easily flowed between current events while dropping opinionated comments such as “Wasn’t it just a pleasure to see Cheney in a wheelchair?” and, regarding Washington, “Let’s try truth, or something like that.”
As she continued to muse on current events, she brought up the fact that although President Barack Obama is seen as the first African-American president, the 29th president, William G Harding, had an African-American grandmother. Her keynote then remained historically oriented, as she recounted the events preceding Rosa Parks’s arrest and the subsequent emergence of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. as a leader in the civil rights movement. Especially thoughtful was her insight into what could possibly have been going through his head as he walked up to address the Montgomery, Alabama crowd for the first time. She recounted that he must have known that every step he took forward was a step away from dying a peaceful death, of old age, in a warm bed at home. And yet he kept walking.
Further into the keynote Giovanni returned to discussing Rosa Parks, and took the opportunity to present her poem entitled, “The Rosa Parks.” Unlike any poem I’ve seen performed, a dance was incorporated in which she “[did] the Rosa Parks” and stepped sideways across the stage while bending her knees as to sit down.
As the lecture concerning the progression of civil rights was coming to an end, Giovanni caught the audience off guard. “I’m a big fan of Deal or No Deal,” she said, and presented a poem she had written for her students at Virginia Tech, who had told her she couldn’t be on the show. “I don’t want to play the game,” she told the audience, “I want to be the game.” Giovanni then proceeded to end the keynote with another personal poem, although much more serious, about how she will always be from Tennessee.
The downturn of the American economy at the end of 2008 has left a series of worsening and continuing consequences. A disappointing holiday shopping season has necessitated the closure of various stores and unemployment is at 7.2 percent, up from 5 percent at the end of 2007. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen record amounts and is lower than it was even in 2002, in the aftermath of September 11th. The situation is expected to worsen, with unemployment predicted to reach 10 percent, before economists foresee any sort of recovery.
There is a silent conflict among us. Students, their representative organizations, and the administration of Lehigh University are engaged in a semantically charged debate concerning the role of the school in moderating, mediating, and sponsoring political awareness activities.
When Students for Obama, a non-Senate recognized organization, opted to bring Gray’s Anatomy actress Kate Walsh to the Rathbone dining facility, the toes had proverbially tested the water. Rathbone management expressed that since Ms. Walsh was not paid, and would draw people into Dining Services’ facilities, that no regulations had been violated. Consequently, whether advertently or otherwise, Students for Obama insulated itself slightly, as the Wood Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sodexho, manages Rathbone. As Sodexho’s contract likely also involves liability issues concerning the facility in question, the school made a clean break.