Professors Engage in Panel on Diversity

Laura Stoloff

On Thursday, March 30, in the African, Latin, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, six Colgate professors led a panel discussion on their experience in a faculty seminar titled “Building Diverse and Inclusive Communities.”

Panelists were Professor of Philosophy Anne Ashbaugh, Associate Professor of History Pete Banner-Haley, Professor of History Graham Hodges, Professor of Jewish Studies Steven Kepnes, Professor of Sociology Rhonda Levine and Assistant Professor of Educational Studies John Palmer. All professors explained what they had learned in the process of the seminar and praised it highly.

“We [professors] never get a chance to talk to each other like we talk to [students] in class,” Levine said. “We all learned something from each other. It was a real treat. None of us had to be an expert; we could admit what we didn’t know. Having a community of scholars is sometimes missing at universities.”

The professors expressed a wide variety of views from the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology, History and Philosophy and Religion. Engaging in discussion with other faculty in different fields of expertise helped each professor work on his or her individual projects within the seminar.

“It was an incredible experience because we received different views on race from a sociological, historical and philosophical standpoint,” Palmer said.

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During the panel, each professor gave a brief overview of his or her individual work and expressed how it helped him or her in his or her findings.

Palmer talked about his research on Korean children adopted in the United States. He mentioned the issue of stigmatization as a large one in America, as did all of the panelists.

Palmer claimed that adopted children from Korea try to prove themselves American but realize they will never be recognized by white society.

He also said that the seminar benefited his teaching skills on the education of race.

Banner-Haley focused his research on African-Americans living in upstate New York between 1890 and 2000. He touched upon the stigmatization of African-Americans in the region and their identity formation.

Hodges also explored racism in connection with New York City cab drivers. He found that cab drivers have bad reputations that are automatically identified with race. He also talked about service refusal from cab drivers because of the color of their skin.

In another research project, Levine has followed three African-American high school students since 2003. She chose recognized male athletes and discovered a large racial achievement gap in America. She also noted that these students struggled with understanding their race in the context of larger society.

After members of the panel presented their findings, a discussion began in which students talked about the difficulties of being a person of color at Colgate.

“I went to a very diverse high school, so Colgate seems almost like a step back for me,” sophomore Avery Blank said. “I am friends with people of [color] here, but I feel detached from these stigmas. Maybe because I’m white and don’t feel like I’m losing my place in society by siding with people of a different race. It is interesting to sit in on these panel discussions because I don’t normally think about the stigmatization people feel at Colgate.”