iC Dingbat

Reflecting on Race

Story by: Martin '08  |  Photos By: Tom Bollier '11

A group of 11 students is sitting around a classroom on a Thursday afternoon. But there’s no professor. The students are on their own, and they’re talking about race. The scene looks like it could have been staged by a college PR office, but for the students, it’s a very real part of their week.

Campus Conversations On Race (CCOR) is what it sounds like: students talking to other students about how they experience race and racial stereotypes. Fourteen student facilitators went through a training program last fall, and this spring they paired up to lead two-hour conversations once a week with an established group, with students from all classes, majors, and backgrounds.

Martin Connelly '08
Cynia Barnwell '11 participates in a discussion as part of Colby's new Campus Conversations on Race (CCOR) program.

“CCOR is indicative of a new movement,” said facilitator Jian (“JC”) Chang ’10. “These are conversations that quite frankly need to be had.” These discussions aren’t limited to Colby. The program actually started at Emerson, in 2004, and has since been adopted by 10 other schools around the country.

The program is necessary, according Joseph Atkins, Colby’s coordinator of multicultural student programs, because even at Colby bias incidents have occurred about once a year for the past few years. The administration responded to each incident with workshops, but a quarter of the population changes every year as seniors graduate and freshmen start, says Atkins. He and others hope that talking about the issues consistently, not just after a specific incident, will make for a better campus climate.

For this year’s pilot program, students were invited to join by professors, some of whom offered extra credit. But participant Mavrick Afonso ’11 doesn’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. “If they go for extra credit, they end up getting something totally different,” he said, “and we’ve attracted someone who might not have been interested otherwise.” After less than one semester, Afonso is already thinking in terms of “we.” And, when the program opens up to the whole campus in the fall, he’ll still be a part of it—this time, he hopes, as a facilitator.

Martin '08
Brunswick, Maine
Major: East Asian Studies

Tom Bollier '11
Amherst, Mass.
Major: Undecided