After originally advertising for “women of color only,” the Women’s Studies and Graduate Consortium’s first “Breaking Bread: Women of Color Dialogue” was forced to open the doors of the Raytheon Amphitheater to all races last Saturday.
The event was meant to include only women of color during its first session from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the second session from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. open to the public. However, after protest from the Student Government Association (SGA), orders came from Provost Ahmed Abdelal that the event must remain open to all who wished to attend.
“They were in violation of the nondiscrimination policy,” said Michael DeRamo, SGA vice president for academic affairs. “We’re glad that everything turned out well and the people who wanted to go were allowed to attend.”
He said although SGA appreciated what the program was trying to accomplish, SGA could not stand dormant while one of their senators was denied admission based on her race.
Dr. Robin Chandler, director of women’s studies and one of the organizers of the event, said she was disappointed she received orders to open the event to all, even though only one white woman actually attended the first session.
Chandler said the point of the first session was to convene as a group of women of color to address issues before bringing those issues to the second session, which was meant for all to attend.
“I think it’s a shame that one or two white students based on white privilege, a lack of awareness of racial issues and a lack of generosity of spirit complained to the office of the provost and were able, because they were white, to gain admission to the morning session that I was forced to open up,” Chandler said. “Only one white female student showed up and I welcomed her anyway, in addition to telling the audience to conduct themselves with integrity even though the presence of a white woman was unwelcome.”
Attendees said they felt having women of color only attend the first session would help them to come together as people with similar issues, many of which they felt were perpetrated by white people. Therefore, many said white women would not understand these issues. They also said the women of color wanted to express themselves without feeling threatened or on display, which many remarked they would feel if white women were present.