Bonchek College House initiates study circles to foster discussions about race

By Bridget Johnston || Contributing Writer

On February 5, Bonchek College House began hosting one of two discussion groups dealing with racism.  Lead by two representatives from the local YWCA, this five-week program is intended to function as an avenue for eight to 12 participants to understand and dismantle racism and its impact in groups either comprised solely of students and a group that combines students, staff, and faculty.

The YWCA is an organization focused on dismantling racism, along with furthering many other social justice goals within communities.  Within Lancaster, they run the Social Justice Initiative and the Racial Justice Institute along with many other programs.  They have also held small group-based discussions about racism in Lancaster for over five years and are now being brought into Bonchek by Beth Proffitt, dean of Bonchek College House, who has previously participated in one of their six-week workshops.

According to Proffitt, she has been thinking of bringing the YWCA to F&M for some time now; in fact, one of the leaders of these study circles, Nick Miron, was asked to speak to Bonchek HAs this past year about similar topics. 

In light of the racially-charged
events of the past few years and in parallel with the work done by many other individuals and groups on F&M’s campus,
Proffitt believes that this is now the ideal time to introduce the program to the F&M community.

“I’ve seen conflict among the
students, and it is important to equip
students with the skills to handle these conflicts,” Proffitt said.

She believes that even amongst similarly themed Common Hour lectures and classroom style discussions around campus, it is crucial to provide individuals with the opportunity to encounter a “brave space” and to support them as they work through the discomfort that comes with approaching racism in a public environment.

In particular, Proffitt stresses how crucial it is that one of the two discussion groups combines both professors and students among its members.

“That is actually one piece of privilege on campus,” she explained.  “There is a power dynamic there, which is why representatives talking to each other is so very important.  I’m very encouraged that so many students are so excited to participate in this.”

Proffitt hopes that these group discussions will contribute to a more educated campus wide conversation along with a sense of community.

Although this particular opportunity to explore and understand racism is now closed to new members, as the weekly meetings have already begun, Proffitt hopes that this program will occur on an annual basis in the future.  In the meantime, many of the other college houses, such as Brooks and New, in partnership with the administration and other departments, are also hosting a series of other discussions surrounding the issue of race for interested students to take part in.

Junior Bridget Johnston is a contributing writer. Her email is bjohnsto@fandm.edu.

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