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Comfortable But Challenging: ASK Conference

By Michael Samuels 09F

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 26, social justice was discussed even more than is usual on Hampshire’s campus. It was the eighth annual ASK for Social Justice Program of the Lebron-Wiggins-Pran Cultural Center. This year’s program was an all-day conference for Pioneer Valley college students to explore the Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge necessary to promote social justice, entitled “Navigating the Realness: Mediating the Coexistence of Social Justice and Communication Conflict.”

Participants attended three 90-minute workshops around the theme of communicating social justice.
Descriptions of the workshops. Information about facilitators.

Melissa Scheid Frantz,  director of multicultural and international student services and an organizer of the conference, explained during a break that the material differed from that of previous  ASK conferences on campus. For example, “part of the conference is to really make this apply to your life, to get it out of the academic lens.”

“I’m usually very skeptical, but I’ve been really enjoying it,” said Parimal Satyal 08F, a student who attended the event. He noted that the workshops were conducted in a way that “maintained a level of comfort” that kept participants from being scared to offend others in a way that would hinder discussion.

Diana Diaz 09F, an ASK student worker, also commented on the atmosphere of the conference. She said that planning this year’s conference included “making it more fun,” to help the participants stay fresh through a full day of intense, challenging discussion. She cited the raffle, the performance by student a cappella group The Crazy Pitches, and snack breaks in addition to the free breakfast and lunch.

Diaz said she also enjoyed meeting new people. Social justice is studied in many different fields, she explained, and the conference was a great opportunity “to come together.”

At the end of the conference, the participants regrouped and reflected on their new skills and new questions, followed by the raffle drawing.

Raffle prizes included a signed copy of Ryumon Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín’s book, two movie passes, Hampshire paraphernalia, and a bottle of chili sauce. The winners, keeping with the atmosphere of the event, all gave comic speeches.

But after winning a water bottle, Jenny Viets 09F declared sincerely that the conference “was worth getting up at nine, which is something that I don’t say about anything.”

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