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Leaders replace week’s meeting with lecture

Liz Harter | Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Saint Mary’s Board of Governance (BOG) members joined the Saint Mary’s resident assistant staff in a diversity workshop with diversity lecturer Bryant Smith in lieu of their regular meeting Monday night.

“We felt in order to [increase awareness of diversity at Saint Mary’s], we need to educate BOG on matters of dealing with diversity on a leadership standpoint,” student body vice president Maggie Siefert said.

The trip was Smith’s second visit to Saint Mary’s, having visited campus in March to present at the Diversity Student Leadership Conference. He will return to the College to discuss the culture of hip-hop Wednesday evening.

“You are about to participate in what I call a cultural confidence course,” Smith said to the group.

Smith does not like to call his lectures diversity workshops because there are different definitions of diversity, he said. He changed the name to cultural confidence courses because he thinks people lack the assurance to put themselves in uncomfortable situations – such as learning about other cultures.

The group participated in question and answer activities that are normally avoided in everyday conversation – such as, “If you could make everyone one race what would it be?”

Students said they avoided asking this question to others in the workshop because they weren’t sure how to answer the question themselves.

Smith then asked if anyone in the room was a card-carrying member of any racist, sexist or ageist groups and presented a list of words that can be considered offensive.

“People use words that can sometimes be offensive,” Smith said. “I don’t want you adding these words to your vocabulary.”

Smith ended his presentation with a quote from Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.

“‘If you are ignorant the world will cheat you, if you are weak the world will whoop you, if you are a coward the world will keep you running,'” he said.

Smith said that this quote is important to college students because they will encounter the real world shortly and need to be prepared for some of its realities.

“[Smith] was an energetic speaker who was able to keep are attention while making us aware of many different issues on dealing with diversity,” she said.