College cancels classes for day-long diversity conference

The "Engage!" conference was created in the wake of student protests last year that criticized the school's handling of sexual assault and racism.

Hampshire College cancelled classes Tuesday for students to attend a diversity conference on “anti-racism” and “social justice.”

Hampshire College cancelled classes Tuesday for students to attend a diversity conference on “anti-racism” and “social justice.”

According to MassLive, classes at the private Massachusetts college were cancelled in order for students to attend the “Engage!” conference, “a day-long learning opportunity for all Hampshire community members that centers conversation and reflection to promote a deeper understanding of anti-racism, social justice, and the cultivation of an inclusive campus climate.”

According to a copy of the conference schedule obtained by Campus Reform, sessions that will be held during the event include a “Conversation on Whiteness and Anti-Racist Organizing,” “Building an Inclusive Workplace,” and “Race and Gender in the STEM.”

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In the “ Racism 101: Defining Key Terms” workshop, participants will discuss “racial prejudice, racism, institutionalized racism, systemic racism, internalized racism, the ‘new racism,’ and intersectionality.”

The goal of the workshop is for people to leave with an increased understanding of the terms, and “be able to identify concrete manifestations of these phenomena in society generally and in their own lives specifically, and have language tools for engaging in future discussions.”

Another session, titled “Unpacking Outdoor Adventure: A Social Justice Inquiry,” aims to show participants the “discriminatory and exclusionary” beliefs and messages within the outdoor adventure field.

“Using a critical inquiry approach, this workshop will examine commonly accepted ideas and practices in outdoor adventure through a social justice lens,” the description states.

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There is also a session titled “Creating a more connected and skillful community of white anti-racists” that is limited to “white-identified community members.”

“This session is designed for white people in order to further educate ourselves and help each other on the path toward becoming more skillful, committed, and consistent in showing up for racial justice,” the workshop’s description states, adding that topics discussed will include “implicit bias, racial microaggressions, white privilege, and white supremacy culture.”

Additionally, a session which is “limited to male-identified community members” aims to “explore the intersection of race and patriarchy, and build a toolkit for emotional and relational intelligence.”

The description adds that “after grounding in shared values and theoretical understanding, we will focus on how race, and cis-hetero-patriarchy lives in our different bodies and the institution of Hampshire college [sic], and how male identified folks can build more compassionate and accountable relationships.”

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According to MassLive, the “Engage!” conference was established following campus unrest in the spring of 2016, which The Daily Hampshire Gazette reports broke out partly because of the school’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault.

In response, the Presidential Advisory Councils recommended that the university should be "increasing opportunities for campus community-building and education on anti-racism, social justice, diversity, and inclusion."

Later that same year, the college became the center of controversy when students burned an American flag on the eve of Veterans Day, prompting the school to temporarily stop flying the flag on campus.

Campus Reform reached out to Hampshire College for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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