Letter to the Editor: Looking inward and looking outward
I am writing to you to provide more information related to a Justice article describing a pilot dialogue initiative in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Since my arrival at Brandeis, I’ve desired to establish an intergroup dialogue program as a way to support our student body in engaging in difficult conversations around difference, inequality, privilege, oppression, etc. Following the events of the summer, we sought to make this happen with several pilot groups. Recently, there has been a misunderstanding about the nature of these pilot groups, indicating incorrectly that these groups were designed to be exclusionary based on race. This is not true. Similar to the various student groups that exist on campus within the Intercultural Center, we seek to center a dialogue group’s focus and inquiry on a specific group and its experience, but these groups are open to all.
I would like to also provide a sense of where we are hoping to go in the future. Though we are still working on a name for these dialogues, we are preparing two types of dialogues: “Looking Inward” and a “Looking Outward” dialogues.
The “Looking Inward” dialogues are designed to support conversations and interpersonal connections among Brandeis students who wish to engage one another around the experiences of a particular social identity, exploring areas of agreement or disagreement. Though each “Looking Inward” dialogue is open to all students, the curricular focus will be specific to the history and lived experience of specific racial groups, particularly in their collective understanding of how that group engages anti-racism and racial equity work and combats racism at the interpersonal, institutional, structural and systemic levels. And while the focus will shift based on the focus of the group, all “Looking Inward” dialogues are designed to build stamina and preparedness to engage in the cross-race experience of the “Looking Outward” dialogues.
At this nascent stage, the “Looking Outward” dialogues are not yet formed. Right now, we are working to bring on more facilitators and attract our student participants, across identity, into spaces of self exploration like the “Looking Inward” dialogues. But please stay tuned.
Mark Brimhall-Vargas, Ph.D.
Chief Diversity Officer and
Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion