Going ‘Beyond the Bare Minimum’
By Lara Hale
Whitman College’s annual Power & Privilege (P&P) Symposium takes place next week, starting Feb. 22, 2022. Designed to make space for conversations about the ways systems of structural oppression, such as racism, sexism and ableism, are manifested on campus and beyond, P&P offers several events, including a full day of presentations led by Whitman students, faculty and staff. All classes on Thursday, Feb. 24 will be canceled to allow the entire Whitman community to participate in sessions, which this year cover issues such as diversity in sports, religious inclusion, abortion access, entrepreneurship in BIPOC communities, and barriers for first-generation college students.
Tying all those topics together is this year’s theme, “Beyond the Bare Minimum,” which junior psychology major Ilse Spiropoulos, co-director of this year’s symposium, explains, was inspired by something a student said during one of the Continuing the Conversation events the P&P leadership team facilitates to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion in the Whitman Community.
While speaking about issues related to access, junior Sueli Gwiazdowski, founder of Whitman’s Disability and Difference Community (DISCO), argued, “We need to do more than the bare minimum.”
“It struck me as an important phrase, and it applies to so many issues,” Spiropoulos says. “People tend to stop when they’ve met the mandated burden—whether that’s a legal requirement or just whatever is necessary to get the ‘stamp’ of social justice—and don't go beyond that to keep progress moving forward.”
She points to the global response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020 as an example, saying that although positive steps were made, the momentum slowed as people started to feel that they’d met their goal for activism and protest.
“This year’s event is asking people to do more than they’re required to do—to go beyond the bare minimum for diversity, equity, inclusion and access.”
Spiropoulos says the P&P organizers hope symposium participants will allow themselves to become uncomfortable and embrace the opportunity to challenge their own world views in a safe environment that’s productive to learning.
“We want people to take away what P&P was designed to demonstrate from day one, which is that there’s always more work to be done and there’s always more to learn.”
The three-day Power & Privilege Symposium kicks off at Tuesday, Feb. 22, with performances by sophomores Tejashree Jadhav, Aziz Sahbazovic and Marina Balasanyan, as well as activist and artist Aisha Fukushima ’09, winner of the 2021 Trailblazer Diversity and Inclusion Alumni Award. Disability rights and inclusion activist Imani Barbarin will deliver the keynote address the following evening on Wednesday, Feb. 23.