Since its inception in 2005, Diversity Day has been a forum dedicated to addressing issues of diversity and inequality that connect with life and experiences inside the Bard College at Simon's Rock campus and throughout the global community.
Founded as an outgrowth of activities by the race task force—a collective of students, faculty and staff—Diversity Day is currently co-presented by more than a dozen campus groups, and annually unites the College in a frank and honest discussion about race, gender, ethnicity, and political identity.
Since 2007, Diversity Day has been integrated into the academic calendar and has presented workshops covering the broadest scope of topics. In lieu of a regular academic schedule, a full day of classes are suspended and replaced with a comprehensive teach-in consisting of more than two-dozen seminars and discussions. Each session is co-taught by a student and a member of the faculty or staff who are all given training on how to lead conversations and mediate conflict. Past workshops have included Global Art: Tacking Identity and Sexism; Reconciling Privilege and Oppression, and Iraq at the Rock: Diversity and the Dogs of War.
So how does it resonate with students?
"Every year I have asked my students what they have heard about Diversity Day. There are students who are enthused and students who don't quite understand why this is a part of the conversation at Simon's Rock," Nancy Bonvillain, anthropology and linguistics faculty member explained. Bonvillain, one of the Diversity Day organizers, continued: "I have been pleased to see that every year some of the students who are the most resistant or blasé, are in fact the most excited and invigorated after attending Diversity Day discussions and workshops."
When Diversity Day first took root five years ago, it originally took place at the close of the spring semester. In recent years, student organizers made the pivotal decision to schedule the events during fall semester so that it might stimulate discussion throughout the academic year. According to one such organizer, sophomore Joseph Berger, "Diversity Day enhances the dialogue on campus by forcing students with opposing views into conversation." Berger continues "Often times friends will discover that they have wildly different stances on a whole host of issues. Instead of drive us apart, the recognition of conflict enables us to connect on a deeper level, a level so primordial that the realities of racism, classism, sexism, etc. cannot shake the bonds of our community"
In 2009, Diversity Day takes place on November 11 and includes a keynote address by Robyn Ochs, acclaimed author of Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World. The day will be divided into two sessions, each hosting nine, one, and half-hour workshops. Students are required to attend at least two workshops, and nearly one third of the student body is involved in Diversity Planning, training, presenting, and organization. With 400 students hailing from 32 states and nine countries and faculty from across the globe, the diversity represented in the College alone is sure to spark an invigorating debate.