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Archive of Projects and Events

Over the academic years of 2014/15 and 2015/16, the President’s Office made available funds to support programs that examined controversial issues facing Vassar and society at large. The following is a list of the events and projects supported by Dialogue & Engagement Across Differences.

Events • Spring, 2016

Project • Fall, 2015

Events • Fall, 2015

Events • Spring, 2015

Project • Spring, 2015

Events • Fall, 2014

Events • Spring, 2016

Journalist Krista Tippett lecture, “Creating Civility” (April 12)

5:30pm
Students’ Building second floor

Krista Tippett is a journalist, author and the host of On Being, a Peabody Award-winning public radio program that airs on 330 radio stations nationally. On Being is the home of the Civil Conversations Project, an emergent approach to new conversation and relationship across the differences of our age.

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"Disciplinary Perspectives on Boycotts of Israel" faculty panel discussion (April 11)

6:30pm
Main Building, Villard Room

Discussion led by professors Maria Höhn (History, International Studies), Paul Ruud (Economics) and Debra Zeifman (Psychology)

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Ari Shavit lecture and discussion, “The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (April 5)

5:30pm
Students’ Building second floor

Shavit is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller “My Promised Land: the Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” which combines, interviews, memoir and straightforward history to relate Israel’s story. An outspoken columnist for Israel’s newspaper of record Haaretz, and a prominent commentator on Israeli Public Television, Shavit challenges the dogmas of both the political right and left on the roles of Israel and Zionism in the 21st century. Sponsored by Jewish Studies.

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Frederick M. Lawrence lecture “Free Speech vs. Hate Speech: The Changing Contours of Free Expression” (live streamed) with follow up campus discussion (March 28)

7:30pm
Sanders Classroom Building, Spitzer Auditorium (room 212)

Live streamed from the Jewish Theological Seminary, in New York, this lecture will address the following: Can we protect free speech in public spaces and still protect against genuine threatening behavior, and speak out against racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic activities? Lawrence is a longtime civil rights attorney, Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School, as well as Professor of Politics and President Emeritus at Brandeis University. A post-lecture discussion immediately after at Vassar will be facilitated by psychology professors Abigail Baird and Dara Greenwood, and Rachel Pereira, Director of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Officer. Sponsored by the Dialogue and Engagement Across Differences Fund. 

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Anti-Semitism workshop (March 11)

Participants will come away from this workshop with specific tools for understanding what anti-Semitism is and is not. It will provide a structural analysis of anti-Semitism and how it intersects with all systems of oppression, and examine its roots in Christian Hegemony and other systems of domination. Participants will learn how anti-Semitism operates along the "four I's of oppression” (ideological, institutional, interpersonal, internalized), will locate their own stories and experiences in these larger narratives, and will develop a framework for eliminating anti-Semitism.

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Lecture by Peter Beinart, “The Crisis of Zionism” (March 3)

5:30pm
Rockefeller Hall room 200

Peter Beinart served as the editor of The New Republic from 1999-2006, after stints as its senior editor and managing editor. His 2012 book The Crisis of Zionism (2012) examined the dynamic between Israel’s growing presence in the West Bank, the related positions held by major Jewish-American organizations, and the resulting impact on younger American Jews.  He is now a journalism and political science professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and a senior columnist for Haaretz.com. Also sponsored by J Street U Vassar, the Program in Jewish Studies, and the Department of Religion.

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<em>New York Times</em> columnist Frank Bruni lecture, “Demanding More from College” (February 29)

5:00pm
Students’ Building second floor

Frank Bruni is a New York Times op-ed columnist. In his columns, he reflects on diverse topics such as American politics, higher education, violence in football, gay rights and his own life as a gay man in a close-knit family. He is the author of Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, which was published to excellent reviews early in 2015. For more information contact President Hill’s office x7200.

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Andrea Gibson, Performance (February 26) and Workshop (February 27)

Noyes House in collaboration with Dialogues Across Differences is profoundly excited to welcome the outstanding, enormously talented, incredibly powerful spoken word artist and activist Andrea Gibson to our campus for a performance and workshop. 

Performance
February 26
6:00pm (doors open at 5:30pm)
Main Building, Villard Room

Gender Theory Workshop
February 27
12:00pm
Main Building, Villard Room

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Bassem Eid, lecture (February 17)

7:00pm
Sanders Classroom, Spitzer Auditorium (room 212)

Bassem Eid will discuss human rights aspects of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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Alexis Pauline Gumbs, workshop (February 16)

This workshop will help students identify both the forms of mentorship they need and the best mentor to support their vision, as well as providing best practices to get and give the support. ​It will include role­ playing, the creation of group poems, as well as call and response activities.

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Project • Fall, 2015

Establish a National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) Campus Team, featuring leadership and training workshops

NCBI is an international leadership development network dedicated to the elimination of racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of oppression. Rooted in an understanding of individual, community, and systemic change, NCBI leaders work with public and private organizations to further cultural competence, collaboration and partnerships, and effective relationships within and among different groups. In January 2015, a two-day pilot workshop was conducted by NCBI for 28 administrators, faculty, and students to focus on leadership and building capacity to facilitate dialogue around controversial issues. The goal was to train an initial group of people on campus who can then work with others across multiple constituencies. Funds now have been approved for NCBI to build a Campus Team featuring a series of workshops in the fall of 2015. Planning has begun and will continue through the spring and summer.

The first step in establishing an NCBI Campus Team is to seek agreement and support from the President, Vice-Presidents, Deans, and other campus leaders who have a primary responsibility for ensuring that diversity and inclusion are embraced within the institution. Having support from senior administrators is paramount to the success of the NCBI Campus Team. These leaders will participate in a one-day Leadership for Equity and Inclusion workshop in which participants will be introduced to NCBI principles and practices for creating an environment to which students and staff want to belong. Administrators will be able to link NCBI principles to the college’s core values and mission.

The second step is identifying and inviting student leaders, support staff, faculty, and administrators who are committed to social inclusion to attend the NCBI one-day Leadership for Equity and Inclusion workshop. By participating in this session, these leaders will be able to decide if they wish to become members of the NCBI Campus Team. Vassar already has over twenty people from the January workshops who have indicated they are interested in being part of an NCBI Campus Team. NCBI recommends an additional group of faculty, students, and administrators for a one-day session—with the goal of having a group of thirty to forty people available for the next step, the three-day Leadership Training, which culminates in the formation of a Campus Team that can provide training to others across campus.

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Events • Fall, 2015

Resetting the Table (November 22)

On February 11, 2015, the Vassar Jewish Union hosted over thirty students from various Jewish backgrounds and connections to Israel and the Israel/Palestine conflict for an evening of dialogue facilitated by “Resetting the Table.” Resetting the Table works with organizations and networks across New York City to create inclusive, empowering forums for young adult Jews to talk, study, deliberate, and form their own relationship to Israel through discussions with trained facilitators. Resetting the Table’s aim is to transform dominant norms of communication on Israel among New York Jews in their 20s and 30s from avoidance, intimidation, and antagonism toward exploration, empowerment, and collaborative deliberation. Resetting the Table believes that American Jews desire and deserve a communal environment in which they can speak thoughtfully with their peers about their relationship to Israel, a topic central to American Jewish identity, without fear. Students at the February 11 program described discussions as empowering and thoughtful, allowing people from a wide range of perspectives to connect on new levels. With this strong endorsement from this year’s participants, plans are underway to bring Resetting the Table back to Vassar in the fall semester, 2015. For more information about this program, contact Abigail Johnson ’17, President of the Vassar Jewish Union (abjohnson@vassar.edu), or Samuel Speers, Director, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and Assistant Dean for Campus Life and Diversity (saspeers@vassar.edu).

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Conversation on Israel/Palestine with Imam Abdullah Antepli and Professor Yehezkel Landau (November 12)

7:30pm
Rockefeller Hall, room 300

Abdullah Antepli is chief representative of Muslim affairs and adjunct faculty of Islamic Studies at Duke University. He is founder and executive board member of the Association of College Muslim Chaplains. A native of Turkey, he was the first Muslim Chaplain at Wesleyan and Duke universities. Yehezkel Landau is a Jewish educator with dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship, he has worked for over three decades in Israel and the U.S. in the fields of interfaith education and Jewish-Arab peacemaking. He is associate professor of interfaith relations and director of the Building Abrahamic Partnerships Program at Hartford Seminary (CT). Sponsored by the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life. For more information contact assistant dean for Campus Life Sam Speers x5550.

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Sheltreese McCoy lecture, “The Demands of a 21st Century Institution” (November 11)

5:00pm
Rockefeller Hall, room 200

Sheltreese McCoy is the president and founder of Change the Field, a queer people of color social justice development firm and she has been an educator and social justice organizer for more than ten years. This lecture is part of a week-long residency at Vassar which is a partnership between the ALANA Center and the LGBTQ Center, with the support of several departments, programs, and offices.

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Nana Brew-Hammond '98, lecture (November 5)

6:00pm
Rockefeller Hall, room 300

With events occurring on campus last year from racial profiling to the Black Lives Matter Movement, Nana, a Vassar alum, will come to give a speech about the complexities and intricacies of Blackness. This event will hopefully complicate the narrative of Blackness and give African students the language to talk about their black identity.

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Bridging the Racial Divide in the College Classroom and Beyond: A Conversation (September 13)

3:00-5:30pm
Students’ Building, second floor

“Recent racially-tinged incidents on campus, coupled with the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and, more recently, Freddie Gray have served to highlight the deepening division between black and white, poverty and privilege that exists in our nation, even as the outpouring of outrage over the deaths of young black men has brought people of all races and classes together,” wrote professors Miriam Mahdaviani and Leslie Offutt in their proposal for this event.

This program will provide an extraordinary opportunity for Vassar students, faculty, and staff to engage with prominent individuals to deepen understanding of the centrality of race in conversations about equality, access, and privilege, and offer constructive avenues to carry the conversation forward both in the classroom and in our daily interactions within and beyond our community.

Panelists include Ivory Toldson, the deputy director of the White House initiative to increase the number of young black men in higher education: Marcia Chatelain, a Georgetown University scholar of African American History; Indiana Garcia ‘11, a recent alumna involved as a trainer in POSSE Los Angeles; Shaka King ‘01, an alumni filmmaker and recipient of this year’s W. K. Rose Fellowship; and Zachariah Mampilly, Vassar’s Director of the Africana Studies program. Vassar professor Mia Mask (film) will moderate.

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“An Evening with Larry Kramer” (October 28)

5:30pm
Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, Martel Theater

The award-winning playwright and author will discuss his writing as well as his role as a public health and gay rights advocate, followed by a q&a with the audience. Kramer’s groundbreaking 1985 play about the AIDS crisis, The Normal Heart, won the 2011 Tony Award for best revival and its HBO adaptation won the Emmy Award for outstanding television movie in 2014. Kramer is also a pioneering AIDS activist who co-founded the Gay Men's Health Crisis in 1982 as the world’s first provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. In 1987 he went on to found the renowned political advocacy group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). Also sponsored by the Drama Department, Campus Life LGBTQ Center, the Program in American Studies, the Office of Health Education

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Nonviolent Communication Training (October 1)

Duke Duchscherer, a certified trainer with the International Center for Nonviolent Communication and former member of the board of directors of the MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, will lead a 1.5 hour experiential introduction to Nonviolent Communication (NVC) for up to 30 participants (www.steps2peace.com). NVC guides people to listen to the underlying values or needs expressed by other people, even when expressed in difficult or hostile ways. The approach then builds on the new connections and understanding that arise to explore solutions and strategies that address everyone’s needs. NVC is being used in conversations, conflicts and settings worldwide by communities and organizations, activists, leaders, parents, educators, doctors, social workers, and managers. After the training session there will be an opportunity for participants to continue in self-led practice groups. “This will enhance the abilities of students, faculty and staff to communicate important messages, and to create connection with others around what is important,” wrote Wendy Freedman (Counseling Service), Adah Hetko (Religious and Spiritual Life), Luis Inoa (Residential Life), Marjeri Manguiat ’18 (Religious and Spiritual Life), Sharon Parkinson (Alumnae/i Affairs and Development), and Samuel Speers (Religious and Spiritual Life) in their proposal.

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Angela Davis, lecture (September 16)

Davis, a 1960s and 1970s political activist who went from the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list to a distinguished career as a professor and author, will give this talk to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Women's Studies Program. Davis's lecture will address the past, present and future of women's studies. Sponsored by the Women's Studies Program, the Office of the President, and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. Co-sponsors are the Departments of Anthropology, English, Film, Greek and Roman Studies, Hispanic Studies, History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology; the Programs in Africana Studies, American Studies, International Studies, and Urban Studies; and by the ALANA, LGBTQ and Women's Centers.

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Events • Spring, 2015

2015 National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (May 26-30)

Eight Vassar representatives (administrative, faculty, and student) will be funded to attend this annual conference in Washington, DC. It focuses on the complex task of creating and sustaining comprehensive institutional change, to improve racial and ethnic relations on campus and to expand opportunities for access, inclusion, equity and academic excellence for traditionally underrepresented populations. “Within the current campus climate, a team approach to the conference presents opportunities to respond collectively to pressing diversity challenges,” wrote Edward Pittman (Campus Life and Diversity) in his proposal. "There is no more opportune time than now when Vassar stands at the moment of transformative change.”

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Civil Rights Today? A Lecture and Conversation with Charles Blow (April 2)

New York Times columnist Charles Blow focuses on issues of racial and sexual justice and civil rights. For instance on Sunday, January 11, 2015 he wrote the column “Tamir Rice and the Value of Life” about the 12-year-old boy in Cleveland, OH who was shot by police two months earlier. Blow worked as a graphics director and art director for the Timesand National Geographic before beginning a bi-weekly column for the Times in 2008 that featured charts as a form of opinion journalism. By December 2012 his column was published twice weekly, and it has increasingly become composed strictly in text. At 3:00pm during his visit Blow will hold an informal conversation with Vassar students, faculty, and staff on “The Challenge(s) of Good Journalism.” At 7:30pm he will give a campus-only lecture in the Villard Room on “Civil Rights Today.” Blow will be at Vassar in particular, “to further the discussion of identity on campus, one that includes American race relations and LGBT issues,” wrote Tyrone Simpson, Associate Professor of English, American Studies, and Urban Studies, in his proposal.

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Free copies of the book <em>Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards Into Battlegrounds</em> (author lecture April 1)

In this 2012 book longtime New York Times and Wall Street Journalreporter Jim Sterba examines how twentieth century U.S. wildlife conservation efforts have converged with municipal development to create unforeseen environmental problems, centered around the impact of swelling animal populations. Challenging situations now abound throughout the country. For example, a large deer population has grown at the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve (VFEP), requiring the college to implement a management plan to limit the deer’s impact on that ecosystem. Controversy and lawsuits have arisen from this plan. The VFEP, along with the college’s Environmental Studies program, Biology department, Earth Science and Geography department, and Environmental Research Institute invited Sterba to speak about “Wildlife in a Changing Environment” (April 1, 5:00pm, Sanders Classroom Building), to help increase campus and public awareness of the environmental history that leads us to this challenging moment. To further campus understanding and dialogue, the deer committee of the VFEP secured a grant to make a free copy of Sterba’s book available in advance to any Vassar student and employee. “One aspect of our current stalemate is that people have forgotten how and why we have reached a point where management is necessary; Nature Wars succinctly points out everything we have taken for granted as having existed forever. This assumption is especially evident in the Hudson Valley where less than 100 years ago, the majority of the landscape was used for farmland,” wrote the committee in their proposal (Keri Van Camp and Elise Heffernan (Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve), Lynn Christenson, Margaret Ronsheim, and Mark Schlessman (Biology), Marianne Begemann (Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources), and Jeff Kosmacher (Communications)).

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Writing about Difficult Subjects: A workshop and lecture with Jon Lee Anderson (March 9)

5:30pm
Rockefeller Hall, room 300

Since 1998 this staff writer for The New Yorker has consistently illuminated complex subjects and shaped national and international discourses. Anderson will hold a free public lecture for the Vassar and Poughkeepsie community, as well as an invitation-only writing workshop for Vassar students and faculty. His recent coverage includes the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the unfolding genocide in the Central African Republic, efforts by the Venezuelan government to clear slums in Caracas, and numerous reports about the Islamic State and other violent movements. Anderson's lecture "History Reset? Libya and the Legacies of the Past" (5:30pm, Rockefeller Hall room 300) will grow from one of his recent articles, while the workshop will explore the challenges writers face on difficult subjects under challenging conditions, whether ethnic or religious conflict, terrorism, poverty and/or disease. “This program will provide the Vassar community the opportunity to engage with a leading journalist covering some of the most challenging stories of our times,” wrote Zachariah Mampilly (Africana Studies), Katherine Hite (Political Science), Timothy Koechlin (International Studies), and Heesok Chang (Media Studies) in their proposal. 

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Screening of “Dear White People” and talk back with executive producer (February 12)

4:00pm
Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, Martel Theater

This 2014 feature film focuses on a fictional Ivy League campus and the events that unfold after white students throw a blackface party. Executive Producer Stephanie Allain and two Vassar professors will participate in a post-screening discussion with the audience. “This movie, set at a campus very similar to Vassar’s, provides both a critical and comedic approach to issues of campus climate, race, and diversity. We hope to provide a light-hearted medium for discussion of current issues,” wrote Zoe Fullerton ‘15 (senior class president), Yasani Spencer ‘17 (Multiracial/Biracial Student Association), Tamasha Persaud ’15 (Council of Black Seniors), and Sierra Garcia ‘15 (ViCE Film) in their proposal. Further co-sponsors include the ALANA Center, Committee on Inclusion and Excellence, Hip Hop 101, and the VSA. 

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Rhapsody in Black/Through a Lens Darkly (February 6 and 20)

Vassar will collaborate with the Bardavon Theatre and the City of Poughkeepsie School District to present two award-winning programs that address racism in America and encourage honest conversation about prejudice. Rhapsody in Black (Friday, February 6, 7:00pm) is LeLand Gantt’s one-man play about his life as an African-American seeking to transcend racism. Through a Lens Darkly (Friday, February 20, 7:00pm) is the first documentary film to explore the critical role of photography in shaping African-American identity from slavery to the present. Both programs will be followed by a panel discussion with prominent local African-American scholars, artists, students, and community leaders, including conversation with the audience. Among the goals highlighted in the proposal by Leslie Offutt (History) and Miriam Mahdaviani (Dance): “Be part of a meaningful conversation about the African American experience in Poughkeepsie; forge a closer relationship between Vassar College and the surrounding community; demonstrate to students how artistry and creativity can challenge societal assumptions.” Free transportation to and from the events will be provided between campus and the downtown Bardavon Theatre.

Rhapsody in Black
Friday, February 6
7:00pm
Bardavon Theatre, Poughkeepsie, NY

Through a Lens Darkly
Friday, February 20
7:00pm
Bardavon Theatre, Poughkeepsie, NY

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National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) Workshop on Addressing Controversial Issues (January 21-22)

A two-day pilot workshop was conducted by NCBI for 28 administrators, faculty, and students to focus on leadership and building capacity to facilitate dialogue around controversial issues. NCBI is an international non-profit leadership development network dedicated to the elimination of racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of oppression. Rooted in an understanding of individual, community, and systemic change, NCBI leaders work with public and private organizations to further cultural competence, collaboration and partnerships, and effective relationships within and among different groups. The goal was to train an initial group of people on campus who can then work with others across multiple constituencies. It also is the hope of the organizers that this workshop can be replicated with other groups on campus. This workshop was supported by the President's Fund for Dialogue and Engagement across Differences and sponsored by the Campus Life and Diversity Office, Counseling Services, and Residential Life within the Dean of the College division.

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Project • Spring, 2015

Vassar College Dialogue Center

The Vassar College Dialogue Center (VCDC) is a new student-led peer education organization to sustain dialogues about social identity differences and tensions at Vassar. VCDC applies a “critical facilitation” philosophy to raise conversation to newer and more expansive frontiers of common understanding. The group is already planning the dialogues “Self-Care and Sustainable Activism” and “Introduction to Systemic Racism” to be held this academic year. It will also use support from the president’s fund to more broadly introduce itself to the campus, provide development to its facilitators and facilitators-in-training, and create pre-training opportunities for new students. “VCDC is currently a small but hardworking group of upperclassmen,” wrote Yanee Ferrari ‘15, Jennifer Lopez ‘15, Alejandro McGhee ‘16, and Sarah Yanuck ’15 in their proposal. “We applaud President Hill’s new focus on dialogue across difference and we believe that VCDC is uniquely suited to provide empowering spaces for dialogue on campus, not only this year but into the future.” For further information contact vcdialoguecenter@gmail.com.
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Events • Fall, 2014

Event: Social Justice Dialogue Retreat: Creating Restorative and Brave Spaces for Critical Dialogues (September 27)

An afternoon of dialogue where twenty-five students from different backgrounds explored the use of critical dialogue across differences through restorative healing and community action. The session focused on understanding various social identities and finding common ground in identifying critical campus issues to discuss. Facilitated by administrators and student interns from the Campus Life and Diversity Office.

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Campus Visit by Yehezkel Landau (September 29)

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) invited Landau to hold discussions with small groups of Vassar employees and students. Landau is an Associate Professor of Interfaith Relations at the Hartford Seminary. In the morning with roughly twenty people, including members of the Bias Incident Response Team and related employees from the Dean of the College division, he led discussions on the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism as well as on the personal impacts experienced on campus around Israel/Palestine issues. Over lunch he met with roughly 10 advisors, administrators, and faculty on the RSL advisory committee, to examine the office’s support for the range of student groups under its umbrella. Topics included creative support for constructive engagement on controversial issues. In the early evening he led a conflict transformation workshop for student leaders from a wide range of cultural, religious, political, and identity groups on campus, including the ALANA Center, LGBTQ Center, RSL (inter-religious) Forum, Students for Justice in Palestine, Unitarian Universalists, Vassar Catholic Community, Vassar Jewish Union, Vassar Muslim Student Union, Vassar student chapter of J Street U, and the Women’s Center. Among its goals the workshop modeled how narrative-sharing can be an antidote to polarization, explored creating a network of students equipped to transform conflict into constructive learning, and introduced the resources of interfaith peace-building.

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Campus lecture by Gershon Baskin (November 3)

Baskin was formerly the chief negotiator between Hamas and the Israeli government, and since the 1980s he has been on the forefront of efforts to develop a viable peace in both the Palestinian–Israeli conflict and the broader Israeli-Arab conflict. Currently Baskin is also a columnist for the Jerusalem Post. In his talk he shared lessons learned from years of advising leaders on multiple sides of the Middle East conflicts, and he discussed his list of peace negotiation do's and don’ts. Principally sponsored by the Vassar student chapter of J Street U, his talk was cosponsored by the Vassar Student Association, Vassar Jewish Union, Vassar College Democrats, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the programs in Asian Studies and International Studies, and the departments of Political Science and Anthropology.

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