Colgate Celebrates King’s Legacy



Natalie Gaugh

Colgate sponsored several events Monday in honor of the birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The first occasion to recognize the work and vision of King was an arts event held in the Chapel at noon, which was followed by four different workshops. The workshops were titled “We Will Change the World,” “What’s Really Going on in Colgate’s Racial Climate,” “Unpacking White Privilege” and “Reflecting on the Words.” They allowed students and faculty to meet on a smaller scale and focus on specific issues.

“What’s Really Going on…,” held in the African, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, was presented by Associate Professor of Sociology Carolyn L. Hsu. The workshop consisted of a slideshow displaying results from the last Colgate University Campus Climate Survey, distributed in 2003 with 1240 students — 43.4 percent of the total student body — participating. Hsu provided succinct explanations of what the statistics indicated about students’ opinions of Colgate’s racial and academic climate, as well as their satisfaction with academic mentoring and peer academic relations.

Hsu also presented the results of a recent student body poll, in which participants were asked about their general reaction to the racist incidents on campus last semester. 383 students responded. Roughly 11 percent responded either that the incidents were “just a stupid prank” (4 percent), a “small group of people’s opinions” (1percent) or “politically incorrect uproar over nothing” (7percent). The next group, 36 percent of those polled, felt “hurt and offended by events that don’t represent views of most students on campus,” and the remaining 39 percent felt that “these incidents are a symptom of a larger problem of intolerance.”

The Campus Climate Survey’s answer scale went from 1, strongly disagree, to 7, strongly agree. When polled about their satisfaction with the “racial climate,” black students on average responded with a 4.3, while white students answered 5.3 — a difference of one entire point, which Hsu stated is a huge contrast in this kind of survey. The Latino group answered with a 4.7, the multicultural with a 5 and Native Americans with a 4.8. The same trend was seen between black and white students in academic mentoring and peer academic relations as well.

“Peer academic relations are most important for deciding how happy you are at Colgate,” Hsu said.

Additional comments submitted at the end of the survey indicated that there was a perception that minority groups were self-segregating, however, the poll showed that whites had the highest amount of friends of the same race as themselves (roughly 89.5 percent out of 5 best friends), followed by black students with 64.3 percent and Latino students with 19.6 percent.

“I was really surprised about the racial satisfaction scale,” first-year Kate Briscoe said. She felt that the workshop and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day “complimented each other pretty well,” but that in light of the incidents last semester, attendance at the events was poor.

“There were a lot of professors there,” Briscoe said, but she thought the event could have been advertised better to students. “[Last semester’s] solidarity events were great, but it needs to be a constant effort. People who went to the solidarity events should have gone to the Chapel [for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day presentations].”

A new survey will be distributed this February via e-mail, with prizes being offered for participation.

At 7:00 p.m. in the Chapel, the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration began, consisting of both inspirational speeches and poetry. The event opened with junior Naledi “Nelly” Semela presenting his poetic work entitled, “The Writing on the Wall.” The poetry reading was followed by a speech by Associate Dean for Diversity and Director of the Office of Undergraduate Studies Jaime Nolan, in which she said that we are on the “precipice of historical change” and asserted that poets “reveal the complexity of our shared humanity.”

Director of the ALANA Cultural Center Thomas Cruz-Soto, Vice-President and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson and Vice-President and Dean of Diversity and Associate Professor of Africana and Latin American Studies Keenan Grenell also gave poignant speeches. President of the University and Professor of Philosophy and Religion Rebecca Chopp’s address, titled “On the Edge of Our Dreams,” argued that “we must have courage to hope as a way of life,” quoting King and applying it to the future with Barack Obama. She also stressed the “moral idea of our democracy,” the “unalienable rights of citizens” and the fact that “hatred and ignorance have no right place in education.”

Colgate’s “Poetically Minded” members also read their work concerning equality and identity, and Def Poets Joe Hernandez-Kolski, Beau Sia and Saul Williams gave stirring slam poetry performances.