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Symposium on Social Justice and Inclusion

Simon’s Rock students, faculty, and staff come together during this annual, weeklong event to discuss, reflect, and act on pressing topics related to social justice, identity, and inclusion.

The Symposium on Social Justice and Inclusion is an annual program sponsored by the Council for Equity and Inclusion (CEI). It provides designated time and space for the Simon’s Rock community to deconstruct barriers to action on important social justice issues—in the classroom and in day-to-day life.

Featuring keynote speakers, skill-building workshops led by students and faculty, and safe spaces for discussion and reflection, the Symposium reinforces the relationship between active participation and a thriving community. In that spirit, the week also provides opportunities for students, staff, and faculty to affirm and unite around the school’s shared commitment to inclusion.

During Symposium Week we take time to come together as a community and work to listen to those we share spaces with. The week helps us to build our knowledge and practice so that throughout the year we can be having open and honest conversations around social justice, inclusion, and equity.

-Drew Melendez
Co-Chair, Council for Equity and Inclusion

 

Symposium Week Teach-InA Deep Dive into Relevant, Recurring and Urgent Issues

Each Symposium is organized around a central theme, suggested by a planning committee, which is chaired by faculty member Nancy Bonvillain and comprises current students. Recent themes have included policing, citizenship, coalition-building, and a special program dedicated to the life, work, activism, and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois.

Learning from Leaders on Social Justice

Each year, the Symposium invites a prominent academic leader to give a keynote address on issues related to social justice and inclusion. The campus has welcomed renowned scholars and activists and their thought-provoking presentations, including Peggy McIntosh, founder of the National SEED Project; Dr. Vijay Prashad, chief editor of LeftWord Books; and Jackie Wang, black studies scholar and poet. These are no one-sided lectures, though. Following the address, the speakers respond to questions from the audience.

I like the sincerity and quality of the faculty and enjoy interacting with them. As for the students, they are like little light bulbs; they are intellectually excited.

-Vijay Prashad,
from his 2017 keynote address

Watch: Dr. Vijay Prashad - “The World of Du Bois and Our World: Fascism and the Possibility of Humanity.”

Using Teach-Ins to Elevate Discussion

The Teach-In day of Symposium Week offers nearly 40 workshops that provide ample opportunity for campus participation. They raise awareness, and stimulate thought and discussion on a variety of social justice topics. The dialogue that takes place during the workshops promotes ongoing conversations — year-round and campus-wide.

The workshops give the students lots to talk about, and many of the workshops are timely. Students have shared that the discussions get them thinking about things they hadn’t thought before.

-Nancy Bonvillain,
Chair of The Symposium on Social Justice and Inclusion planning committee

With guidance from faculty and staff, students facilitate most of the workshops, which are often a further exploration of their own studies or interests. A sample of workshops shows the diversity of interests, as well as current concerns, among the students, faculty, and staff at Simon’s Rock.

  • #YouToo? Sexual Harassment in the Wake of the Harvey Weinstein Scandal
  • Sanctuary Movement and Immigrant Rights
  • Can Racism be Defeated With Reason?
  • Achieving Equity and Inclusion in Mathematics Education
  • Chinese Folk Dancing Presentation and Workshop
  • How We Can Support Trans Students in Today’s Political Landscape
  • I Am Not My Hair?
  • Social Media Bots. Free Speech or Information Warfare?

Special Events and Spaces

Special events round out Symposium Week by offering insights into each other’s heritage and culture, as well as a look at social justice in a historical context.

Heritage Tea

Heritage Tea marks the beginning of Symposium Week and celebrates our heritages. This special event emphasizes the diversity of heritages that are sometimes unnamed and unrecognized. Students, staff, and faculty are invited to share a story, poem, or piece of art that relates to their heritage, family legacy, or cultural traditions that have been passed down.

Our Mother Tongues

The International Student Club organizes this special event, which recognizes and celebrates the diversity of languages and cultures present at Simon’s Rock. Participants are exposed to over 20 languages "in action," as community members share stories and histories that result in a vibrant awakening of culture and a better understanding of the diversity on campus that’s sometimes hidden in plain sight.

Safe Spaces

Following the workshops on Teach-In day, participants take advantage of designated safe spaces, where they come together, share experiences and reactions to the workshops that they attended, or simply relax.

Symposium Week Origins

Simon’s Rock is committed to helping everyone on campus feel included, and Symposium Week is one way the College encourages further discussions related to issues of inclusion, equity, and social justice. Over a decade ago, students, faculty, and staff formed a Race Task Force to address campus concerns.

Turning its focus to more general issues, and in cooperation with the Faculty Senate, the task force created a Diversity Day, which in subsequent years extended over several days, and included a keynote speaker. In 2017, the Symposium was extended to a full week, demonstrating that the College and CEI are as committed as ever to providing an inclusive environment for everyone on campus.