This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

Lecture Series Focuses on Diversity and Affirmative Action Issues

Over the years, several prominent scholars have visited the campus for the Common Ground lecture series. The series, which seeks to explore issues of gender and racial equality, reflects collaboration between the Offices of the Dean of the Faculty and the Dean of the College and faculty members.

“We felt it was important to bring to campus the most important thinkers about various issues relating to affirmative action, inclusion, and diversity,” said Dean of the Faculty Ron Sharp. “We are looking for people whose ideas are shaping the national discourse and who are known to be excellent speakers.”

Common Ground is one part of the college’s ongoing effort to foster inclusiveness in its campus community through discussions on affirmative action, civil rights, public education reform, racism, homophobia, gender equity, and inclusive pedagogy.

Law professor Frank H. Wu was the most recent speaker invited to campus for the series. On November 26, Wu, who is the dean of Wayne State University Law School, discussed the current challenges facing advocates for affirmative action in the wake of the most recent Supreme Court decisions and ballot measures.

Sharp said, “I think [the speakers] have genuinely raised the level of the campus discussion, as well as broadened it.” Two speakers that stand out in his mind are Claude Steel, a professor of psychology at Stanford whose scholarship includes “stereotype threat,” and Kimberlee Crenshaw, a professor of law at UCLA and NYU who has done work on critical race theory.

Speakers coming in the spring semester include Pedro Noguera, professor of urban sociology at the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University and a co-director of the Institute for The Study of Globalization and Education, on February 5; and Troy Duster, distinguished professor of sociology and New York University and author of Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Colorblind Society on March 4 and 5. "These two speakers (Pedro and Duster) are sure to help raise the level of campus discussion even higher. We anticipate that, given his extensive and critical work on Black and Latino students in the education system, Noguera will help us to crystallize our thinking around strategies for increasing the presence and participation of male students of color in the life of the college. Duster will very certainly engage us in critical thinking around the sociology of diversity and the hierarchy of difference, as well as faculty roles in the success of our diversity efforts. In short, we are incredibly fortunate this year to have the wonderful opportunity to engage these scholars, said Dean of the College Judy "JJ" Jackson.

January 2008

Back Issues