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SMC hosts identity forum

Kelly Meehan | Thursday, November 4, 2004

Hearing the phrase “Smick Chick” often causes students, especially those who attend Saint Mary’s College, to react to its various connotations.

Contentious issues like this one were discussed Thursday evening at the College’s first Identity Forum, held to encourage dialogue amongst the women of Saint Mary’s in regards to diversity on campus, the College’s relationship with Notre Dame and the definition of a Saint Mary’s women.

Approximately 100 students gathered in small groups in Stapleton Lounge to discuss many pressing issues. Women’s Issues Commissioner Katie Kelly welcomed the students and presided as the director of the small group discussions.

“It is important for us to find common ground as Saint Mary’s women while we discover the place for ourselves in the universe,” Kelly said.

Kelly invited the groups to share their thoughts through peaceful discussion and not to accuse or defend each other, but rather to create an image of who they are as Saint Mary’s women. Kelly encouraged the groups to introduce themselves to each other, and explain their experiences with diversity prior to attending college.

After the students were acquainted with one another, Kelly invited the group to create a written list of what comes to mind when they think of the term “Saint Mary’s Women.”

The small groups of women worked together to create lists that included positive terms such as “intelligent”, “leaders”, “confident” and “understanding”. However, the more negative stereotypes of attending Saint Mary’s were unavoidable. The phrases “easy”, “Notre Dame rejects”, “drunken” and “looking for ‘M-R-S’ degree” also graced many groups’ lists.

After the lists were completed, Kelly encouraged the women to discuss ways to eliminate the negative stereotypes while encouraging the more positive ones.

“If we ignore the negative remarks it will only bother those who accuse us of being a certain way,” freshman Cassie Quaglia said.

Many groups shared similar ideas of downplaying negative stereotypes, like not encouraging the female Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s relationship of dislike during orientation. The goal of fostering a brother-sister relationship rather than a parent-child one between the two institutions was a goal that many women approved.

“I think it would be a good idea not to have our Pride Week shirt in Notre Dame colors and not conclude Pride Week by hosting a Notre Dame pep rally would be a good thing,” junior Sinnamon Wolfe said.

Students also encouraged each other to become more involved in Multicultural Affairs to better understand diversity on campus. Students were also encouraged to become involved with The Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership to make a difference and to get involved in the South Bend community.

“It is important for us to participate in campus activities to further unify ourselves as women of this college. We need to be aware of key negative phrases and downplay stereotypes,” senior Katie Press said.

This forum was the first of many in what the College hopes to be the continuing effort for students to unite to create the definition of a Saint Mary’s woman.