Many people at Whitman share the opinion that the Power & Privilege Symposium is something that deserves more energy, effort and appreciation from those who are not involved in the event, including administration. The goal of Power & Privilege is to educate people who are unaware of the issues that marginalized groups and identities face and to draw attention to the need for understanding and inclusion. I believe that to give the Symposium the attention it deserves, P&P needs to be expanded to a week-long event rather than a single day off from classes.
Week-long programs vary in content at other colleges, but in general are well received in their engagement and intentions. For example, Reed College organizes an odd but eclectic program which they call “Paideia,” that lasts one week before the spring semester of every year. This tradition gives students, faculty or anyone on campus the opportunity to teach if they so desire. Classes can be taught on anything from the Harry Potter universe, to pyramid conspiracies, to the art of Ukrainian egg dyeing among other random interests. Like Power & Privilege, Paideia is not mandatory; attendance is a choice one can make to actively participate in the community and to learn about things they feel they should learn about. This program was developed from the ideals of being open-minded and celebratory of education, which I think is the intention of Power & Privilege.
P&P is unique to Whitman and creates the space to foster more in-depth discussions that improve the greater community. Making the symposium a week-long event would help make sessions more accessible and give people more autonomy over whether or not they want to engage. The expansion of P&P would give our community an opportunity to welcome the voices that are striving to be heard. There was a mind-boggling number of people who skipped on sessions this year. If more attention was given to these discussions, there would be more people in attendance, not out of obligation, but out of curiosity.
The best way to expand P&P would be to offer the same amount of sessions but to spread out when they are held. This way, there would be more opportunities for people to see what is interesting to them. I felt like I had to make hard choices about which sessions I attended because there were so many great sessions in competing time slots. Ultimately, I do not think there was enough time to give the deserved amount of attention to these sessions. The benefit of a student-led event like P&P is that it promotes understanding within the community, as well as acceptance and education. It may seem concerning to faculty or those who are apathetic towards the cause, but I believe taking a week off of classes to attend the Symposium would contribute to change on a larger scale.