The Pluralism and Unity Project at Lewis & Clark

Uploaded by lewisandclark on 09.02.2011

What does diversity mean? What does culture mean? Who sort of gets a chance
to feel like they can have some authorship of that, that they have ownership of those
pieces? And what I really wanted to see happen was to have more of that authorship come from
the community, not for me to sort of determine what needed to go out, but for the community
to kind of tell me what needed to come through. And so I think that part of what I enjoyed
about creating the board was to start that process, but I also like the idea that for
the students who are a part of the board, I want them to become better allies to one another.
So, the board member who happens to be gay can become a better ally to the
board member who's African-American and a student of color. That student of color can
be a better ally to the GLBTQ community. Those two can become better allies to a student
who has a very strong Jewish identity and wants to better understand what it means to
have a Jewish identity on a largely sort of agnostic campus. I want them to become better
allies to one another. I want the white student, the majority student, to feel like she can
become a better ally to everyone, but also that they can become a better ally to her
identity development. So, I want to see that happen as well.
Well, the goal of the Pluralism and Unity Board,
or Project, is really to be able to put into practice the school's mission behind
the open community that we all hope to have so that students can thrive in.
Issues get talked to death, where some people
are, "I don't even want to hear it anymore, I don't want to go to another forum. I'm tired
of talking. Do something!"
So their program was really this three-day event where they kind of ratcheted up the
opportunities for community members to talk a little bit about who they are and what they
bring to Lewis & Clark. So, students received these little vinyl stickers that said,
"I AM," and there were these places where poster boards were created, and students or faculty,
staff, or whoever learned about this event could take the opportunity to fill in that blank.
I think the point of the "I AM" event was to emphasize that Lewis & Clark is diverse,
not necessarily in terms of racially diverse, but just in other different ways. There are
so many different aspects to people that we don't know about, or people may just be shy
to express about themselves.
And so the goal really was to give them the authority to decide what they wanted to write,
but also for the school to be able to reflect back on how students articulate their own
identity, which is something that they're not often given the chance to do.
It got the dialogue going, and the dialogue
continued. And I think for me, as someone who's kind of in this role of leadership,
I was most struck by the fact that, for the board members, it was a true opportunity
for them to feel like they made an impact.
You know, we're not trying to intrude on your day-to-day activities or be intrusive in your lives.
But, if we can do something that sort of makes you more aware of a situation, or
think differently about something, I think we've done pretty well.