BY ANNA SHORTRIDGE '19
The Building on Our Momentum Conference is fast approaching. Starting on Sunday and running through Monday evening, Mount Holyoke students, faculty, staff and other members of the community will have the opportunity to participate in events surrounding topics of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Kathleen Pertzborn, a member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee and one of the primary organizers of the conference explained its premise. “With help from many members of our community, we’ve planned a multi- faceted, engaging, two-day event that will bring us all together to experience and engage with each other’s ideas and concerns about our diversity, equity and inclusion at the College.”
When asked to explain the driving force behind the BOOM Conference, acting president Sonya Stephens shared her insight. “Our commitment to change and to being the change we want to see beyond our campus begins with a day dedicated to answering a single question: How do we move from being a ‘diverse campus’ to being a fully engaged campus community that is diverse, equitable and inclusive?
“If we want to deliver on this promise, we have to do the hard, systemic work that will lead to change, and change of a kind that will be real and sustained. To be successful, we all need to commit, and to align our work and energy with all the efforts of those who have led us to this point.”
According to the BOOM Facebook page, the ultimate goal is also that participants “will use what they learn about our current strengths and needs related to DEI, and begin to articulate our shared vision for an ideal campus community.”
Many students are thrilled to hear that Mount Holyoke is striving to move from being a “diverse campus” to one that internalizes its diversity. Thus, many on the MHC campus are looking forward to the conference and for the potential changes it may bring to MHC.
“I feel like it has the potential to start some really good conversations and hopefully cause some much needed changes to way we deal with diversity on this campus,” saic Lauren Queen ’20.
Additionally, Pertzborn shared what participants would be doing while at BOOM. “The conference will feature a keynote speaker, poster sessions, smaller panels and presentations, film screenings and interactive activities as well as ways to collect ideas and feedback as we move through the day,” she said.
Many of these events will be organized and led by MHC students, student orgs and faculty. One the students involved is Basil William Bartlett ’19, of Gender+. Gender+, which is in the recognition pro- cess, strives to “create an intersectional space to improve the lives of trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary students on campus and to create dialogue, provide resources and host events to educate the Mount Holyoke campus as a whole,” according to Bartlett.
“Gender+ is using BOOM as an opportunity to educate and inform those on campus of how to respectfully navigate pronouns and language in order to improve the trans/gnc/non-binary experience on campus,” said Bartlett.
The org will be hosting Crash Course: Gender Pronouns 101, which focuses on informing students, faculty, staff and organizers about how to use pronouns respectfully and conversationally, as well as how to facilitate introductions.
However, many are skeptical of what the conference will hold and how it will play out. Queen, who said that she was looking forward to the conference, is also unsure of BOOM. She raised concerns that those who would most benefit from the conference will not attend, as the conference is not mandatory. Queen is also concerned about the ability of those members of the MHC community who are people of color to lead the event.
“I feel like some students are so vocal about how ‘great’ of an ally they are that they don’t actually take the time to be quiet and actually be one,” said Queen. “I really want the voices of students of color to take the forefront during this event.”
She also hopes that the conference will lead to visible, meaningful change on campus.
“Hopefully the conference leads to actual changes in the behavior of students and the way things happen on campus. I think conversations just so everyone can feel good about themselves are not necessary at this point and there is already a lot of that here,” said Queen.
“I feel like MoHo spends a lot of money on black (but also other POC) speak- ers and visitors etc., but perhaps more of that money should go towards more black and other POC professors, counselors, staff and other long-term changes to make the campus overall more diverse and inclusive. If it was more like that then we probably wouldn’t even need a conference like this.”
All students, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in the conference. All Mount Holyoke classes will be cancelled on Monday, March 27 and administrative offices will be closed. While members of the MHC community are encouraged to participate, those with prior commitments should meet those commitments.
The conference is a part of the College’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative. The process does not end on Monday night with the conference.
“We also know that not all of our collective needs will be covered on this one day,” explained Pertzborn, “so we’re looking forward to seeing what recommendations come out of the time we’ve dedicated, as a community, to this effort so we can plan for the future. BOOM is only the beginning!”