On Tuesday, Sept. 25, the University of Rhode Island will kick off the first event of the 2018 Honors Colloquium.
This year’s theme “Reimagining Gender: Voices, Power, Action,” will host a variety of speakers as well as an art exhibit and theater production.
There has been a process leading up to this point, where the colloquium is ready to be presented to the public.
“The way that the colloquium process works is that we solicit proposals, and typically groups of faculty ranging from 2-6 people put together what is really a preliminary proposal,” said Honors Program Director Lynne Derbyshire.
The honors advisory committee will then review the themes and decide which ones they want to see developed further, eventually choosing either one for an upcoming year or “stack them up” and select colloquia for two years in a row.
“I’ve been director of Gender and Women’s Studies for a year,” she added, “and I thought it would be a good way to educate the community about current issues around gender and the status of women in society and what needed to be done to move toward more gender equality in our society.”
A major reason why they submitted the proposal, was due to immense faculty and administrative support. “Every time I sent out an invitation, people said ‘yes, I’m interested in this, I want to contribute,’” said Pisa.
These meetings happened to coincide with the 2016 presidential campaign.
Dr. Pisa said, “I was confident, given that [Hillary Clinton] did not have any real competition, she would win… At the time, nobody really took [Donald Trump] seriously,” citing his lack of political experience as compared to Clinton’s as an example of her claims.
The original hope was that this colloquium would take place in a “very optimistic, positive, inspiring environment,” said Pisa, and she felt “strongly” that this should be approved for the fall of 2018 because she “felt that if this colloquium came later, we would miss momentum.”
After the election saw a Trump victory, however, this changed. “Oh my God, we didn’t expect this,” said Pisa. “We had discussed a colloquium that would celebrate gender equality and moving in that direction. Now, we need to be concerned about protecting what we have achieved and not being pushed back, which has been threatened.”
Pisa decided the election results only made the colloquium more important to have the conversation and remind the community of the issues at stake. The group also discussed how they wanted to integrate conversations about the LGBTQ community.
Smita Ramnarain, an assistant professor of economics at URI and one of the coordinators of this year’s colloquium, agrees that this year’s colloquium is incredibly important in today’s society.
Ramnarain said, “There have been events in the last year, including the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement, as well as other longer-standing issues, which have certainly made an introspection about gender roles and gender inequality very timely.”
Students are agreeing about the importance of the colloquium as well. Senior MeKenzie Mattheson, who is a double major in gender & women’s studies and sociology, cited issues including reproductive freedom and immigration. Mattheson also mentioned issues closer to campus, including sexual assault and pay inequality. She hopes that the campus will “address this issue with open arms.”
“Gender inequality is one of the biggest issues of our time,” Mattheson said. “It has been for a long time. But we’re now in a place where people are ready to address it. Some people aren’t, but if some people are ready to address it, we need to go for it.”
Some of the featured speakers include, transgender activist Jennifer Finney Boylan on Oct. 2, discussing “Transgender Identity and Resistance: The Power of Story”; author Claudia Rankine on Oct. 9, discussing “Contemporary Black Women Artists: Intertextuality and Counter-Narratives”; and Sports Editor Dave Zirin on Oct. 30, discussing “Reimagining Masculinity, Sports, and Resistance.”
The lectures run through Dec. 4, and they are Tuesdays at 7 p.m., free and open to the public.