September 21, 2004
Interview on the Diversity Weekend Committee
I interviewed a friend, and she really wanted to talk about the Diversity Weekend committee. And although I realized that I knew the microculture too well (if it could be called one), and that it had a short life span (one or two years of members) she insisted on it and I thought it would be prudent to honor my informant’s perspective. I told her not to assume I knew anything of the microculture and imagine I had transferred in from Colorado.. or something.
The interview was done at her house lounge, with friends around, for about 40 minutes. Friends stayed all in the kitchen, however. (No noise factor)
Y: So you told me that there is this thing called Diversity Weekend. Is the Diversity Weekend a group? Committee..? Advisory group, what is it, and, like, can you tell me about Diversity Weekend?
J: Yes, Yongho. Uhm [laugh] Diversity Weekend started five years ago and it’s a coalitional space for all the different cultural orgs at Macalester. Those include Adelante, Blac, pipe, asa, bridges, pasifika, and… negotiable spaces for oh, and Maseca. And negotiable spaces for mio and.. europa.
Y: Ok [laugh]
J: so we get together every week, we get together all summer, and we get together from 3 to 4 now, on Sundays, but during the week we [?] together, after some of the students had the Mellon meeting. At noon
Y: wow. [laugh] so diversity weekend is a group of people?
J: yes. It constitutes representatives from all different organizations, and it’s come up to be.. and allies.. and it’s come up to be umm probably like 20 people. Who are involved in the different committees.
Y: At the beginning, when you were talking about Diversity Weekend, you said things like Bridges, and pipe, and um, blac, what are those things?
J: they’re different cultural organizations that began at Macalester in the 60’s, not all of them, some of them. BLAC stands for Black Liberation… (Affairs) Affairs Committee. Adelante!, it’s got an exclamation point and it means like, moving on, we’ll move on as people. And that is the latino organization. And pipe, is pan-indigenous.. peoples… (no.. proud indigenous) proud indigenous peoples for education, and asa is asian student alliance, and I thought you were from Colorado! [laugh]
Y: So, what do these organizations do with Diversity Weekend? So Diversity Weekend is a group of people. And these are.. cultural organizations.
J: so we basically collaborate. Usually, usually each cultural organization plans on events, and there isn’t much coalitional work being done between the cultural organizations, so one time a year, every cultural organization gets together and plans this weekend to celebrate multiculturalism at Macalester, their own leadership, and to have a through analysis of Race, and Space, to quote Karin Aguilar-San Juan, who is a professor at Macalester. But so, we get together and organize these series of events, which is in itself both multi-issue, and multi-platform, and multi… activities? I could say. So we have speakers, and panelists, and movies, and concerts, and theatrical performances, as well as like, spaces for reflection, you know? The student brunch that we will be having. Basically the events go through the entire week of October 7th through 10th.
Y: Wait, wait.. so I thought the Diversity Weekend was a group of people. But now you are talking about these events? (uhuh) so these events are events that are organized by these organizations?
J: So diversity weekend is the label of this..coalitional activity that occurs every single year. We are actually the Diversity weekend committee, thank you for bringing that out, so the diversit weekend committee [emphasis on “committee] and we plan Diversity Weekend [emphasis on “Weekend”] and Diversity Weekend [emphasis on “Weekend”] is made up of all these different events. As well as issues, and identities, and.. [I utter an “uhuh” afraid of delving into the preacher dilemma.. ideologies] yeah.
Y: So, so.. what else.. could you say, talk about again what’s the different between the diversity weekend committee, and the organizations.. so is it that the organizations are involved with diversity weekend and diversity weekend committee or is it that diversity weekend.. [I draw a diagram which shows the options of ORGS -> DW -> DWC and ORGS -> DWC -> DW].. [laugh] (yes. [laugh]) so is, it like DW, DWC and organizations? Or is it like, DWC, DW, orgs.. how are they related?
J: Ok, so, Diversity weekend is a coalitional effort of all the cultural organizations, cultural organizations themselves, in negotiation with their members, decide how their own representation in their cultural orgs is gonna occur on diversity committee. So some person maybe just has one member who is working on it, you know, and they’re gonna represent that committee. Other people, are, not maybe ON a cultural organization they want to represent themselves [I think “cultural organization” is a folk term because she tends to say these two words very, very fast] or part of cultural organization and don’t represent anybody, necessarily. But I feel like that’s something that every person who’s involved has negotiated for themselves. And so, I think the idea is that cultural organization are all involved in organizing Diversity Weekend and therefore all involved in Diversity Committe through representation of individual, or multiple members. But I think it’s different about this year, because before we used to have each group who would be assigned on an activity. But now the difference is I guess, is that we give more agency to individual members so that they can decide what event they want to work with, and different people they have worked on that event with. So that there’s actually MORE coalition work happening now than before.
Y: Um.. so does it belong to one of these two answers [going back to the diagrams]
J: yeah, but I think people interpret it different. I’ll tell you that, theoretically, like, how it’s supposed to happen, organizations send representatives to the diversity weekend committee, who plan diversity weekend.
Y: oh, so like this: Organizations they’re in Diversity committee, and they do diversity weekend. And so..
J: although, last year, it was Diversity weekend and cultural orgs. And not necessarily actually a committee doing any sort of committee doing any sort of organizing together.
Y: Oh so it happens.. so Diversity Weekend, there are many diversity weekends?
J: we had five.
Y: So.. so how does that happen. Like do you decide how many to have?
J: we have one diversity weekend a year and this started five years ago. (oh) I think there’s a consensus that this is going to be an annual event (oh) therefore happening only once a year. (how long is the event) it begins October 7th, which is actually not a weekend day, it’s a Thursday [laugh] to October 10th. Which is a Sunday.
Y: so you said a little bit about how it was this year, and how it was last years, so does the way you do this, change every year?
J: yes. We’re constantly trying to make a better, and mold what we think are important issues and politics of organizing involved in that year. So last year we thought like peoples’ own individual desires to work on certain types of activities, and strengths didn’t come out as easily, because people were sort of “assisgned” on an activity to do. So if you had identified yourself as latino, and were part of adelante, then you would be working on a dance. If you were part of ASA, then you would be working on the keynote. And now we have different committees, it’s organized differently because we have different committees where this member of adelante can choose to be on any committee he wants to or she wants to. And so we have committees that are multi-racial (uhuh) and people are having to interact with each other who are from different types of spaces. Of course we also have committees which, don’t have committees. [laugh] individual members heading it up. For example, like the student panel committee. That a friend of mine, Yongho Kim is heading.. do you know him? (…yeah.) oh you do? [laugh] he’s very nice.
Y: So, you said that organizations… eh.. you said that organizations.. so you talked about different committees. Uhm. I shouldn’t know that. You talked about committess. Are there different kinds of committees? (Yes) ok, what kinds of committees are there?
J: Well I’m glad you asked [laugh] different committees include a movie committee, which actually has changed, before the movie committee showed a movie, uhm and now we’re actually bringing a speaker to talk about a documentary she’s showing. And the issues are about transgender organizing, (uhu) and the politics of representation and leadership at Mac. Our theme, by the way, is “Race and Leadership in the 21st Century”. (Ugh, I’ll have to write all these) our second, our second committee, is the.. the.. (can you just give a list of the committees?) oh sure! The movie committee, the keynote and dinner committee, the entertainment and performance committee, the panel and reception committee, the student brunch committee, and the concert committee. And there are two coordinators.
Y: So there are six.. seven committees? I think? (six) six.. (oh and the publicity committee! Which is seven) seven. Are there any more committees? (no) Well wht about the diversity Weekend committee, isn’t it a committee? (yes) why didn’t you mention them when with the committees?
J: because diversity committee is the umbrella committee of all these smaller committees. So I really should distinguish the umbrella committee and the subcommittees.
Y: uhm. So are these.. like keynote committee, and entertainemtn and performance committte, are they a KIND of diversity weekend committee? (they are subcommittees) oh they’re subcommittees… so they’re part of diversity weekend committee (absolutely [laugh]) oh ok. why are you answering like my former interviewee? Ok so how do people actually “do” diversity weekend. Because you said that most, since most of what the diversity weekend committee does, is doing diversity weekend. So how do you go about doing it?… Or planning or…
J: well.. every committee has its own structure but what tends to happen is, committees.. I mean subcommittees. Subcommittees. (uhuh) subcommittees meet outside of, together two or three people, sometimes more, sometimes lesss, there’s actually three or four people, sometimes more sometimes less, together – and they arrange all the details they have to do for the specific event that they have committed themselves to. Then on Sundays we get together and coordinators discuss, you know, broad structural things about the event, such as.. funding an organization, and vision, mission statement, but it’s all in contribution with what other people on the committee are saying. And we give different reports about how we’re doing. An important part of Diversity Weekend, too, is that we are also learning about one another, and getting to know about the types of interest that we have for each other, and that we personally have on our own, and there’s always space for socializing at the beginning and the end.
Y: you said that.. during the meetings? Is that right? (uhuh) during the meetings, people will go over structural things, like the budget, and vision.. are there other kinds of structural.. how do you call these things, the budget, vision..
J: I call them.. I call them.. organizational necessity? [laugh]
Y: is that how everyone else in the diversity weekend committee call it? (I don’t think so) how do the rest of the people call it?
J: they may call it.. no, I don’t think we have established a name for it..we actually just call it… structure, budget, funding, vision.. [laugh impregnated in tone] (uhuh) but I don’t know if there’s actually been.. a… umbrella term to cover all these things.
Y: But when you think of it, you call it organizational necessities. (uhuh) so what other kinds of organizational necessities are there, there’s budget, vision, funding.. are there other kinds?
J: I think a lot has to do with diplomatic relationships with other committees, (uhuh) …. Of course every one of the members has responsibility of keeping their members informed of what’s going on. And so that’s responsibility that’s dispersed, and not concentrated, the way some of these activities are. Although, actually, there’s been a lot of participation from non-coordinators. For example this friend of mine Yongho Kim, he umm, he’s organized much of the funding, even though he’s not the coordinator (uhuh) but has he’s visionary [laugh] (uhuh)
Y: umm.. you said that some activities are coor.. dispersed, and some activities are concentrated, can you give me some examples of activities that are concentrated?
J: uh.. yes.. yes. I think some of the activities that are.. or some responsibilities.. that would be my word. Responsibilities that have become more concentrated, happen to be relationships that occur between other organizations like Macalester Student Govenrment, and the Program Board, where they have assumed responsibility for being a liaison and representing diversity committee in those types of spaces. And that’s more concentrated [heavy breathing – stress?] and so I know that you know when there’s discussion going working on the theme, and the mission statement and the questions, we discussed them in a group but the people who actually went to write on the actual theme, were actually a group of two. Sometimes three. (uhuh) and they came together and then the entire committee would check it. And make sure that there was consensus on the vision.
Y: So the vision.. and the mission statement, and umm.. the thing that you do with the Student Government and Program Board.. what is that thing that you do with them?
J: ummm….I like to call it “diplomacy”
Y: Diplomacy. So diplomacy, vision and mission statement are kind of concentrated activities.
J: no, mission statement is not a concentrated activity.
J: hmm? The mechanics of it have, were concentrated but the actual molding of the ideas were not concentrated, it was discussed in the entire committee.
Y: That’s why didn’t want to do Diversity weekend [laugh] the structures never end.. [laugh].. what kind of activities are dispersed?
J: like within the committee we all discuss the mission statement, but things like, people are responsible for their own, is keeping their cultural orgs informed, and publicizing for the event in their own communities and spaces they exist on outside diversity weekend, AND even outside the cultural organizations. There’s.. people who have.. who have primary responsibility for like I said, these different committees, you know, and making sure that the committees fall through, and also they have relationships with different departments, you know, and hold departments accountable to… making this decision on whether they want to participate in the planning. We function at very person-to-person, face-to-face interaction, but also used technology, specifically email, to interact with one another, and that has sometimes allowed for other voices to come in, where they are unable to make it to face-to-face interactions.
Y: I have to ask this.. what are committees? Could you give me some sort of brief description?
J: sure. I’d like to, of course again, discuss that, when I’ve said “committees” in the vernacular, I was actually really meaning “sub-committees” (ok, [coldly] subcommittees) so some of the subcommittees are organizational structures that are devised [weighted words] for a purpose (uhuh) in this case, the purpose is to… uhm develop some piece of programming of the diversity weekend. (uhuh) so there’s people involved in these committees, and they go as involved in the committee. Often committees get together because they have a purpose, sometimes short term, sometimes long term, but they aim to achieve that purpose.
Y: uhuh. So how do they.. so in the committees there are peoples and goals. And people.. these people are trying to achieve the goals. How do they achieve the goals?
J: That happens in a lot of different ways. And I can’t speak for all of the committees.. ([pushing] but like what kinds of things do you do?) we often have meetings, you know you set a time when most of the people in the committee can be there, or all, hopefully. At the committees you brainstorm ideas, and you figure out resources you need to help you achieve these ideas, and you would delegate tasks.
Y: delegate tasks.. [laugh] what happened to you? [informant is rubbing her face vigorously with both hands] so.. subcommittees are part of the committee, diversity weekend committee, right? Are there other committees? (no) no? diversity weekend is the only committee?
J: oh, yes. I misunderstood your question (oh, what other committees?) there.. sure.. they may not use the word “Committee”, though and they may have different definitions, and I don’t want to claim to speak for them. But what I would think is a committee , would (interview transcribed up to here)