2015 Symposium

Our Past is Ever Present: Understanding Systems of Oppression and Inequality

This year, the theme for the Power and Privilege Symposium isThe Past is Ever Present: Unmasking Systems of Oppression and Inequality”. We chose this theme because we wanted to engage the Whitman community through discussion of how manifestations of oppression and inequality from the past continue to take their power through structural, institutional, and systemic oppression in the present. We see that past inequality and oppression continue to inform our present in systemic, structural, and institutional ways, and we want to engage the Whitman community in discussion of these dynamics. We feel that our theme is particularly relevant because of the recent movements surrounding police brutality, economic diversity, sexual assault, body positivity, and global climate change both within the Whitman community and in a broader national and global context.

The Symposium will be held on February 19th, 2015, with a keynote address from Dr. Shakti Butler the night before.

This is an opportunity for members of the Whitman community to come together and engage in difficult, thoughtful, and honest conversation on issues that impact us all.

We hope that everyone will take advantage of all that the Symposium has to offer

General Information

Both the students and administration of Whitman College strive to make our campus a place of diverse cultures, perspectives, and experiences. Although we share our campus, we do not have the same life experiences, based on our race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political ideology, socioeconomic status, nationality, among others.

The Whitman faculty have cancelled class on Thursday, February 19th so that everyone has a chance to participate in student and faculty led workshops and panels throughout the day.

During the symposium, we seek to challenge students’ understanding of their place in the world based on these experiences, and the power dynamics associated with them.

We want people to talk about their own life experiences, and how they have shaped the world where they come from.

We strive to educate on the power structures prevailing around the world, questioning many of the paradigms and assumptions that we grew up with.

History behind the Power and Privilege Symposium

In 2006, there was campus-wide controversy after two students wore blackface to a party. The controversy surrounding the incident ignited discussion about racial issues throughout the student body, motivating students and faculty to provide a channel for these discussions to take place. To respond, the college cancelled classes for a day and put on Whitman’s first Race Symposium in 2006. This first symposium was largely successful: it garnered popular attendance, fostered discussion among individual students, and reduced some of the risk of alienation that comes with diversity.

In the spring of 2011, after a very heated ASWC Town Hall, the idea of a race symposium resurged. As a result, an ASWC act was drafted to recreate a Symposium on Race. In Fall 2012, the ASWC student affairs committee formed a committee who took charge of organizing the event. The committee decided to re-name the event the Power and Privilege Symposium, to leave room for future years to cover different topics relating to identity, power and oppression.


  1. Is there a document with all of the descriptions for each panel workshop? It is quite a hassle to click on every single workshop on the electronic blue pamphlet to learn more about them.

    • Thanks for your comment – as of now you will simply have to click on titles on the workshop schedule pdf to take you to descriptions, but we will take this into account for next year! We would also appreciate it if you would fill out our feedback form when it is released later this week so we can hear more from you!

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