Claiming Williams Provides a Day of Reflection on Equity and Inclusion

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, executive assistant; tele: 413-597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., January 21, 2020—Williams College will hold its annual Claiming Williams Day on Thursday, Feb. 6, with events throughout the day that encourage critical thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion. For the past 11 years, Claiming Williams Day has raised awareness of historical and contemporary efforts to make Williams more accountable to its various communities, especially underrepresented and underserved groups. Claiming Williams aims to invite community building through the process of critique and collaboration, providing a platform for authentic expressions of experiences at Williams and reflecting on the college’s responsibility to all its members.

While most of the events are open only to the Williams College community, three events are open to the public: Anthony Jack, sociologist and assistant professor of education at Harvard University—and one of the event’s two keynote speakers—will kick off Claiming Williams Day with a lecture titled “The Privileged Poor,” on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Chapin Hall; “Reinventing ReEntry: Post-Incarceral Simulation Experience,” a workshop that looks at the challenges that former inmates face following their release from prison, will be held on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 3:45 p.m. in Greylock Hall, second floor (parking behind the ’62 Center); and Claiming Williams Day’s second keynote speaker, Hoda Katebi, a Chicago-based Iranian-American fashion blogger, writer, and activist who promotes garment workers’ rights and ethical fashion production, will deliver a lecture titled “Decolonizing Fashion from Tehran to Boston,” on Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. on the MainStage, ’62 Center. Tickets are not needed for any of the events. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis.

A first-generation college student, Jack’s new book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students (Harvard University Press, 2019) reframes the conversation surrounding poverty and higher education. In his book he explains the paths of two uniquely segregated groups. First, the “privileged poor”: students from low-income, diverse backgrounds who attended elite prep or boarding school before attending college. The second are what he calls the “doubly disadvantaged”—students who arrive from underprivileged backgrounds without prep or boarding school to soften their college transition. Jack’s research and writing have been published in The New York Times, Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, The National Review, The Washington Post, The Hechinger Report, and NPR. He has held fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation and was a 2015 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellow. The National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan named him a 2016 Emerging Diversity Scholar.

“Reinventing ReEntry: Post Incarceral Simulation Experience” is an interactive event that leads individuals through a probation experience over the course of approximately two hours. Fifteen minutes represents one week, and at the end of every 15 minutes, participants will be evaluated for progress or failure. Each participant is given an identity of a former prisoner, their crime, educational level, place to live, and the amount of money they have managed to save. Participants will receive court-ordered obligations that they must complete each week for their first month after being released. Faculty and students will also speak about their own experiences with the prison industrial complex. This event is sponsored by Converging Worlds.

Hoda Katebi’s creative political fashion work has been featured in the BBC, The New York Times, and VOGUE, and featured/cited in books, journals, and museums around the world. She is the host of #BecauseWeveRead, a radical book club and discussion series with chapters globally; founder of Blue Tin Production, an all-women immigrant and refugee-run apparel manufacturing workers co-operative; and organizer with Believers Bail Out, a national effort using zakat to bail Muslims out from pretrial and immigration incarceration. She is an abolitionist and community organizer, who participated in campaigns to end surveillance programs and police militarization. Katebi graduated from the University of Chicago in 2016 where her research explored the intersections of fashion, gender, and the state in Iran. She plans to begin law school in fall 2020.

Claiming Williams invites the community to acknowledge and understand the uncomfortable reality that not all students, staff, and faculty can equally “claim” Williams. By challenging the effects of the college’s history of inequality that are based on privileges of class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion, we can provoke individual, institutional, and cultural change.

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