In early February, The Cooper Point Journal talked to Vice President / Vice Provost (VP/VP) of Equity and Inclusion Chassity Holliman-Douglas about the Equity Symposium, the new event being planned instead of Day of Absence/ Day of Presence (DOA/DOP). In the January 10 email announcing the event change President George Bridges said that “This year…we will develop a more robust event for learning about equity, inclusion, and privilege in the 21st century.” Though the equity symposium is being presented as a new event Zach Powers, Evergreen Communication and Public Relations Manager described in a statement that, “The symposium is not a replacement of Day of Absence/Day of Presence, but rather an opportunity for the Evergreen community to design a robust new equity event from the ground up.”
Although Powers describes the change of event as an opportunity for the Evergreen students, staff, and faculty to design an event that suits our needs, there was no community conversation around the decision to create a new event instead of reworking or continuing DOA/DOP. When asked as to whose decision it was to change the event VP/VP Holliman-Douglas responded that “to the best of my knowledge our senior leadership group, which is all of our Vice Presidents, [and] our Chief of Staff,” continuing to say that the senior leadership, “asked me if I would come up with an event that would increase our community’s understanding of cultural competence and social justice [and] help to increase our sense of belonging as a community and really give us that space to come together and talk about what our challenges are.”
POC Talk sat down with several students of color to get a read on how community members are reacting to the news of the change. Although no student interviewed had heard of the event change through the January 10 email announcement, many students expressed disappoint to a change they perceive as being a cop out by the administration and reactionary response that ignores community input.
One student, Melissa, said “I heard about the name change from a friend and we both rolled our eyes. I feel like the name change is both ridiculous and cautious. On one hand, averting media attention is good because it protects students of color from threats and attacks, but I don’t particularly feel like that’s why the school changed the name. I’m feeling conflicted, angry, stressed, and relieved about the changes.”
An Evergreen junior, Nick said that they heard about the name change “through the grape vine” further saying “I do not agree with this change it is not morally right.” Echoing this sentiment another student Marissa, said, “I just feel like [Evergreen’s] putting a temporary solution on it and it’s not revolutionary anymore if you change the name,” continuing to say that as a school, “we’re supposed to be against the bullshit in higher education so for that name to change because it got a lot of backlash, it’s like we don’t stand for anything anymore… it’s kind of a slap in the face of the people who created it back in the day.”
Despite taking issue with many aspects of the the new event, all students interviewed expressed that they would be attending the event this year. Melissa had this to say about attendance at this years event, “I’ll definitely try to participate in the workshops as much as I can because I remember there being some really interesting and important ones. To just not participate would just feel like a disservice.”