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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs Press Release
Emphasize continued need for deeper understanding of diversity
The proceedings of a major national conference on race in the academy organized by Dartmouth College, have been published and are available in electronic form (download the pdf, 350kb). The purpose of the October 4-5, 2002 conference was to examine, through case studies, issues associated with race and academic freedom, diversity and curriculum change, and the status of ethnic studies programs within universities. The Dartmouth Committee on Race in the Academy, a faculty group, organized the conference as the first in a planned series of events.
"The three case studies addressed by expert panelists drew on research conducted by them and other scholars who have been instrumental in bringing about dramatic change," said Professor George Langford of Dartmouth, who organized and convened the conference. "Panelists pointed to the 'invisible privileges' of whiteness that remain as obstacles to true institutional transformation," he added. Such transformation, the participants suggest, is the logical outgrowth of the numerical diversity universities have achieved in their student bodies. Minority scholars suggested strategies for bringing their work closer to the core of the educational process and students shared their experiences working with faculty and administrators to bring about changes in the curriculum. "The system of curriculum reform and renewal is slow to respond to the needs of today's students, and the questioning of minority scholarship can sometimes be portrayed as individual differences of opinion rather than as issues of academic freedom." Langford noted.
The report of the proceedings calls for a national debate on what it terms "the still unfinished business" of race matters in academia, particularly in the process of faculty appointments, curriculum change and the positioning of minority and ethnic studies programs. It is the hope of the participants and organizers that the report's observations and recommendations will serve as a catalyst for a national discussion of these less visible, yet fundamental diversity issues. That discussion is particularly timely now in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the use of affirmative action in college and university admissions.
Conference speakers included Cornel West (Princeton University), Hortense Spillers, (Cornell University), Eric Lott, (Unversity of Virginia), Evelyn Hu-DeHart, (Brown Univeristy), Paul Lauter, (Trinity College), Carol Boyce Davies, (Florida International University), Donelda Cook, (Loyola College), Joseph Francisco, (Purdue University), Dana Nelson, (University of Kentucky), Ray Bachetti, (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), Jorge Miranda (Dartmouth Class of 2001), and Scott Jacobs (Dartmouth Class of 1999).
"In the decades since the civil rights movement first brought the 'diversity project' (a conscious attempt to recruit more diverse students) to higher education, student bodies on American campuses have become far more ethnically diverse. But at the same time the diversity movement as a political project has begun to thin out," the report notes. "A diversified student body continues to be the primary lobbyist for change - a clear sign of the unfinished business of reform. Students, often without being able to articulate fully their insights, have intuitively grasped what faculties and administrators have failed to understand - that ethnic studies are not a minority counseling program or a victim studies program, but a 21st century education for all Americans."
"This conference was a remarkable event," said Langford, who also serves as Chair of Dartmouth's Race in the Academy Committee. "What is so evident is that arguments over 'affirmative action' or 'diversity' merely scratch the surface of what is one of the most profound transitions affecting higher education today. We hope that our work will stimulate and support discussions that go even more deeply into these important issues."
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