Collective Conference is a Hit – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Collective Conference is a Hit

Social Justice Collective and Women’s Collective Conference on Building Community and Envisioning Possibilities was a big hit this year. It was comprised of three parts, a tabling session, sustainable lunch and workshops. The workshops addressed the issues of  women and the economy, dance and gender relations, gender issues in Indonesia, masculinity and perceptions of gender and how we react to people trying to “get out of the gender box,” as well as many other topics. The conference was attended by approximately 200 people.

The Social Justice Collective and Women’s Collective each hold an annual conference; because this year’s topic was gender, the two clubs decided to co-sponsor one event.

“The decision to merge the conferences was a good one,” says Amy Nadel ’09, president of the Women’s Collective. “It brought together more people, more perspectives and more insight on gender, a major issue in the world today.”

William Smith Interim Dean Cerri Banks explained that the Social Justice Collective, co-sponsor of the event, grew out of her class on social justice.

“Students from my class wanted to do something, to say something. They wanted to put what they learned into practice in order to educate others. The conference grew from my students and a grant.”  She explained she likes to encourage intellectual discussion and noted that many social justice problems can be solved by engaging a larger number of people. “People walked away from this conference with a better understanding of themselves and of others.”

Hobart Associate Dean Chip Capraro expressed support for the idea that student clubs and organizations should collaborate on large conferences such as this one.  “Joint sponsorship is always more effective in finding common intellectual ground, as well as increasing attendance.  An interdisciplinary approach to problem solving often leads to greater success.” Capraro and Professor Jack Harris offered a “men’s studies” workshop at the conference.  They wanted to raise awareness of men as gendered beings.  Their workshop focused on “the paradox of men’s power,” exploring the idea that men, as a group, are powerful, but men, as indiviudals, often do not feel powerful, and that has important implications for working with men on social change.”

There were many other clubs involved in the conference. Campus Greens provided the sustainable lunch, and Amnesty International, Project Eye-to-Eye, and Arts Collective all had tables in the library atrium at the beginning of the conference.

An article announcing the conference appeared in the Finger Lakes Times. The full text follows.

Finger Lakes Times

Dean hopes HWS event will have practical applications

Amanda Folts • March 27, 2009

GENEVA – The Social Justice Collective and Women’s Collective at Hobart and William Smith Colleges have teamed up to organize a three-day conference focused on gender.

William Smith interim dean Cerri Banks, who oversees the Social Justice Collective, said she hopes people will enjoy the conversations at the event, which starts Saturday, and walk away with an understanding of the topics explored.

Workshops will range from “The Paradox of Men’s Power” to “A Girl’s Guide to the Economic Crisis.” But the overall theme, Banks said, is a focus on issues of equity and social justice, which she said are important parts of building a community and finding points of connection with other people, as well as understanding their differences.

She also hopes people will leave with new ways to have conversations about those issues in their everyday lives and be more critical of the world around them.

Banks noted that gender is always a topic of discussion at HWS – with its coordinate men’s and women’s colleges – so it’s especially relevant to the lives of students there and how they go about their day-to-day work.

 “We want to celebrate the [education] of both men and women,” Banks said.

Banks said both Collectives put on events each year that focus on issues connected to social justice. Last year, the Social Justice Collective’s conference centered on social class, while the Women’s Collective conference always focuses on issues related to gender.

This is the first year the two groups have collaborated on a conference, but Banks said they have talked about a continuing the effort with various groups on campus.

And while they may not do a conference together every year, Banks said the groups do collaborate in other ways and support each other’s events.

“What we’re trying to show is that a number of the themes we’re discussing effect all of us,” Banks said. “We think it’s important for people to always come together for both intellectual and social conversation and to have fun around these issues,” Banks said.