For my ethnic/diversity community event, I chose to attend the "Doing 'Diversity:' Making It or Faking It?" conference about diversity within the CCA community. (I had also attended the Tim Wise lecture but was so enthralled by his humor and presence that I failed to take many notes!)
I caught the opening remarks by Melinda de Jesus, the Diversity Studies Faculty Roundtable, and the "Integrating Diversity Studies at CCA" Roundtable that included administrators and faculty. Due to scheduling conflicts, I was unable to stay for the discussion that I thought would be most relevant: the thoughts and presentations of fellow students.
During the opening remarks, I learned that Diversity Studies started at CCA after the inclusion of a Black Studies program and Black Arts minor at the college in 1978. It was never fully explored and no one quite knew the answer as to why CCA no longer offers Black Studies programs or Black Arts studio classes anymore. Other faculty members expressed concern about this invisible history as well. I think it's a valid question and one that should be explored.
During the first two hours, ten Diversity Studies faculty members presented their work and education to the audience.
Tressa Berman explored diversity and artistic citizenship and defined diversity as "creating environments characterized by equal access, parity, and equity."
Claudia Bernardi presented her work with Central and South American communities affected by political strife and human rights violations. She discussed the role of art in these communities and how they contribute to the diplomatic process. I understood that she was very sensitive the needs of each community and later found out that this was due to her own history of subjugation in Argentina.
Lauren Elder collaborates with performance artists to make location-based work dealing with public housing and schools.
Guillermo Galindo uses music in time-based performances and teaches a postwar music class. He mentioned that he is also the only minority to teach of primarily technology-driven class. (Which is really interesting because when I think back to my studio classes dealing with technology, I had one white professor and one Asian professor, both men.)
Amana Harris was the only faculty member that is also a CCA alum. She shared her frustrations as being a minority as both a student and instructor. In her classes, she divulged that there was a lot of contention felt by primarily white students over being "forced" to meet required diversity studies courses. I could feel her anger and confusion and empathized. As a white student taking required diversity studies courses, I understand the frustrations of these fellow students that want to focus on their studio classes but I find their anger unwarranted. I think that diversity studies seminars and studios can help students explore these issues in their studio work. When I interviewed Claudia Bernardi she expressed surprise over the lack of knowledge that some of her students have about the world around them. I think that in order to be a successful artist (in any discipline), it's important to be aware of the world.
Taraneh Hemami presented her work with the Iranian community. She collected stories about Iranian immigrants after the revolution and mentioned that she started her project after 9/11 and was, thus, met with suspicion over her goals for the project. The work that she showed was incredibly beautiful and poignant. It made me long to be in the gallery with the work in order to devote more time to each individual story or collection of photographs.
Devorah Major is a poet that wants to explore forms of resistance in her work. I found her presentation inspiring due to her strong presence and constant raising of valid questions. She was also a major voice during the faculty roundtable.
Lydia Nakashima de Garrod is a visual artist interested in social justice. She spoke of several different projects with victims of violence.
Parisa Parnian spoke about the intersectionality in her life as an Iranian queer woman. During her education at Parsons in New York, she suggested asexual clothing and was shot down as being too "transgressive." She currently teaches a class at the San Francisco campus called "Alternative Bodies" for designers and architects. The projects currently in progress in the class include a house for little people and their "standard" size children and maternity wear for butch women.
Celia Rodriquez spoke of installation and performance pieces about the Chicano/a experience, especially regarding the migration of Chicanos and the indigenous people of Mexico.
At the end of the presentations, all the faculty members gathered for a short roundtable discussion about diversity studies in the CCA curriculum. One member mentioned the idea of "both/and" meaning that there should be both professors of color in each artistic discipline as well as in diversity studies. A peculiar challenge was the integration of diversity issues in the design programs such as: interior, graphic, and fashion.
After the break, faculty members and administration met for a Roundtable entitled "Integrating Diversity Studies at CCA: Challenges and Initiatives." Mark Breitenberg, the Provost of CCA mentioned the recent racially charged events at UC campuses in Merced and San Diego. He also dismissed the notions of a "colorblind" or post-racial society. He mentioned 4 important reasons to devote the school to diversity: 1. provide a reflection to the world we live in 2. pedagogical 3. pragmatic (especially in design) 4. ethical.
After Breitenberg spoke, the rest of the faculty and administration had a moment to speak about the ways they are each addressing diversity. It was strange that all the faculty and administrative members were white. Could that speak about the lack of diversity within the faculty and administration?
Ila Berman, the architecture chair, provided some great points for the discussion and how the issues of race, culture, and gender are explored in the architecture program. But, the more practical forms of architecture affect everyone. How a city is planned, how a public building functions, these have larger social implications. She focused part of the discussion on the lack of diversity within the student body and addressed the socioeconomic factors that factor into a student's decision to attend CCA. Another problem for the marginalization of diversity studies by students is the existence of these courses "outside" of major coursework.
Mel Corn, the Associate Provost provided statistics on the student body and faculty. The final tally? The faculty is 72% white. During a Q&A session with the roundtable, Devorah Major questioned this statistic even further. What would happen to this percentage if the professors in diversity studies were removed? Who would remain? What would happen if we added up all the professors with tenure? Would any people of color remain on that list? These are valid questions that need to be asked and during the conference, we all found that there are no easy answers for this question.
Unfortunately, I had to leave before witnessing presentations by my fellow students. The issue at CCA is a divisive one and I don't know of any simple answers. Through my course work with the History of US People of Color, I can understand the plight of the faculty and students trying to change the status quo at CCA. I have heard fellow students talking about some of the course requirements for diversity studies in a similar manner and it really surprised me. How can my intelligent friends at CCA not think that learning about these issues matter? That these issues have been magically resolved? It's frustrating and I find myself unable to change their minds. I really wish that there had been a bigger audience at the conference because the people that were not in the audience were the ones that needed to be there the most!