Third annual Diversity Summit focuses on privilege and power

Max Haase, Contributing Writer

The third annual Diversity Summit commenced on March 27 and emphasized the core themes of identity, inclusion, and social transformation, with a central focus on class, power, and privilege within college campus life.

The summit began with an interactive community dinner that aimed to explore the themes of the summit in the context of food consumption and production.

Amaryllis Kanyabwero ’20 was one of the student hosts of the dinner who believes discussing food accessibility and sustainability is very important to creating a more inclusive campus.

“One of the issues that was brought up at the dinner was that food is less expensive at grocery stores but that it is difficult to get access to Giant or Walmart if you don’t have a car,” said Kanyabwero. The highlight of Kanyabwero’s night was when a staff member of student transportation promised to work on those specific issues so students do not have to spend two hours on a shuttle trip to Walmart.

“This event is important to the Bucknell Community because we are uniquely situated at a school that can raise awareness and teach others about food insecurities and accessibility,” Lina Hinh ’19, one of the student hosts of the dinner said. “There are a lot of people on our campus that face food insecurity and too many intentionally or unintentionally turn a blind eye to those in need. Too often these struggles go unnoticed and therefore unaddressed.  I wanted to bring an awareness to campus in a way that sparks conversation and leads to solutions.  I hope those that attended left with a new passion in their soul to go out and help their fellow humans.”

The dinner was immediately followed by a lecture by keynote speaker Elizabeth Armstrong, an author and professor of sociology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan.

In her talk on the social and economic injustices on college campuses across the country, Armstrong explored the link between socio-economic class and educational and career opportunities and success. Armstrong’s research, gathered in her book “Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality,” suggests that universities have shifted their institutional priorities to the benefit of the affluent and to the detriment of lower SES students in order to attract full-pay students and subsequently sustain their businesses. Though the book mentions that the blame does not fall entirely on the shoulders of colleges themselves, due to the fact that declining state and federal support and rising tuition have made it critical to recruit students who can pay more (and who continue to donate after they leave), Armstrong conveys that this educational structure is both oppressive and fosters injustice. She explained that “college experiences and class trajectories out of college are shaped by the fit between individual characteristics and organizational characteristics—namely, the college pathways available to particular students.”

“Armstrong did a fantastic job of opening the eyes of students at a liberal arts school to the economic injustices that pervade college campuses as seen in the research done at Midwestern University,” Alex Markovitz ’19 said.

The summit continued on March 28 with various presentations and creative workshops. The events aimed to provide students within the campus community the opportunity to immerse themselves in social justice work from both local and global contexts by developing and strengthening the knowledge, skills and habits necessary to produce meaningful dialogue. While socio-economic class plays an integral role in this year’s summit, the intersectionality of socio-economic class and factors including, race, gender, and sexuality is the binding point of interest and discussion.

On the evening of March 28, the Burma-Bucknell Bowl Award was presented to Helen Morris-Keitel associate professor of German studies and chair of the department of languages, cultures & linguistics. This award, according to the University’s website, recognizes “an organization or University community member (faculty, staff or student) who has made outstanding contributions to intercultural and international understanding.” The award was first presented to the University in 1958 by the President of Burma in honor of the partnership between the University and Burma.

Additional recipients of the President’s Diversity & Inclusion awards included Rabbi Chana Leslie Glazer, presidential professor of psychology Joel Wade, Anthony Scrima ’18, the collaborative group Women in Leadership, and the student organization B.A.C.E.S.

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