Third World Center Perspectives: In the Aftermath

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Photo Courtesy of the Brown Daily Herald.

Hello and welcome! We are Dolma Ombadykow and Olivia Veira. We’re both first years and will be blogging the Third World Center perspective for the Bruin Club blog this year! It’s going to be excellent.

Hi! Olivia here. The holidays might be right around the corner, but things are not winding down around Browntown. Midterms still aren’t over (*sob* they’ll never be over), Reading Period is right around the corner, and powerful conversations about the events on 10/28 are still going on.

We thought we’d fill you in on the goings on around campus with regards to the Ray Kelly incident.

Shortly after the event, Christina Paxson decided to mobilize a committee of undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and staff to investigate the events and try to create dialogue to make sure an event like this does not happen again. Here’s a snippet of her email:

“I will form a committee of faculty and students that will conduct its work in two phases. In the first phase, the committee will be charged with doing a rapid investigation of the event itself. It will identify problems with the planning and implementation of the lecture that may have contributed to the disruption. In similar episodes that have occurred at Brown in the past, the students or organizations involved have been asked to take responsibility for their actions. After the findings from the first phase of the committee’s work are complete, we will determine whether individuals or organizations involved should be referred to the University’s established processes for resolving alleged violations of the Code of Student Conduct.

In its second and longer phase, the committee will address the broader issues of campus climate that have been raised in the past week and make recommendations for creating a more inclusive climate while upholding our commitment to free expression. That said, we should not wait for the committee’s recommendations to take steps in this direction. I have encouraged faculty to continue talking with students about the issues raised over the past week. A number of campus organizations are planning panels and events. I have been reaching out to student organizations to arrange meetings. If I cannot meet you in person, I invite you to send me your ideas for how we can move Brown forward.”

As UCS members; Dolma and I got to vote on two undergraduate students who would serve on the committee alongside graduate students, professors, and other staff members on campus. About a dozen individuals stood in front of UCS and members of the student body to hear why they thought they were the best fit for such a committee. When they were done with their speeches, we questioned them briefly. At the end of all the speeches, we discussed the values and characteristics that UCS should prefer when deciding on a candidate.

There were a lot of different reasons behind why people voted the way they did, but I made my selections based on a few criteria: I wanted the committee members to be comfortable with and excited about having conversations surrounding race, class, and systems of oppression in general. I thought this important because there is no doubt that they will have to have many of these conversations. If they lacked that experience, they would not be able to have an engaged discussion with other committee members during Phase I, nor would they be able to encourage discussion amongst the rest of campus during Phase II.

For my second criterion, I searched for a student that could be unbiased in their investigation, but unafraid to stand against the decisions made by other members of the committee if they seem unfair or unjust. More than one of the applicants were directly or somewhat involved in the protests that occurred during the Ray Kelly lecture (though no applicants were allowed to have been physically inside the lecture hall where Ray Kelly was to speak). UCS had a long discussion about how we should weigh that when casting our votes. Ultimately, I decided that a candidate’s involvement in the protests should not disqualify them from being on the committee. In fact, their opinion might be useful in the discussion. Instead I evaluated them based on the other criterion I established and paid close attention to whether they would be able to have productive discussions on the issue.

When I cast my vote, I voted for two individuals of different ethnicities, genders, backgrounds, and social groups on campus. When UCS had a discussion, this was also controversial: should we emphasize having a student of color on the committee? Many felt it was important to have a student of color on this committee who could provide a different perspective on the issue from others. Of course, this insight is not inherent in being a student of color. So, I looked for a student of color whom I thought could grapple these issues with the fact that students of color are disproportionately affected by policies like stop and frisk in mind. I also hoped that this candidate could provide a keen insight into race and class relations on campus. On the same note, I hoped that the other individual would provide a different sort of insight, which is why I voted for students of unique ethnicities, genders, backgrounds, and social groups.

After the rest of the committee was chosen, Paxson sent out another email announcing the other members of the committee:

“Carlos Aizenman—Associate Professor of Neuroscience

Amanda Anderson—Professor of English

B. Tony Bogues—Professor of Africana Studies (committee chair)

Lina Fruzzetti—Professor of Anthropology

Philip Gruppuso—Professor of Pediatrics

Lakshmi Padmanabhan—Graduate student, Modern Culture and Media

 The Committee will be staffed by Dean Besenia Rodriguez, from the Office of the Dean of the College, and Michael Grabo, Office of the General Counsel.”

I think the students selected for the committee are both more than capable of fulfilling their duties. Both of them possess the characteristics I was looking for while making my voting decisions. Terra Laughton is a senior involved in $ocial Classmates, an organization that facilitates discussions about class at Brown University and beyond, and did UCAAP as a freshman. Dakotah Rice is a sophomore from Atlanta (woot!). He is a Rhode Island Urban Debate League debate coach, he was voted Mr. Black Student Union last year, and is involved in other activist organizations around campus. Coming up, we’ll have a Q&A with Dakotah on what’s been going on in the committee thus far.

Happy Thanksgivukkah!

We will be co-blogging the first year, Third World Center perspective for the Bruin Club this year. If you have any questions or suggestions for what you’d like to see happen with our blog, please send us an email! We don’t bite (promise!).

We hope to hear from all of you!

Olivia & Dolma

olivia_veira@brown.edu

dolma_ombadykow@brown.edu

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