University of La Verne students, faculty and community members gathered to discuss issues of women, gender and sexuality during the second annual Engendering Diversity and Community conference that took place March 29-31 on campus.
The conference, hosted by the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies committee, was a compilation of lectures, theater performances and roundtable discussions designed to generate open discussion about these important issues.
“We felt like the campus didn’t have an active dialogue about gender and sexuality,” committee member Zandra Wagoner said. “The conference is a way to get the dialogue going and major awareness about these issues out there.”
Aiming to improve over last year’s successful two-day conference, the committee added an extra day to this year’s event and student participation was highly encouraged.
“We wanted to bring more student participation in planning,” Wagoner said.
The Iota Delta sorority contributed to the conference by sponsoring the Clothesline Project, part of a national event to increase awareness about some of the most violent abuses taking place against women.
For this, on March 29 and 30, colored T-shirts were put on display each representing a different form of abuse ranging from domestic and sexual abuse to racism and attacks based on sexual orientation. Students were invited to decorate the T-shirts either in memorial or support.
“It's a chance to air America’s dirty laundry,” Iota Delta President Nancy Reyes said.
With a number of students on the planning committee, students were more involved with this conference as compared to last year, although this year’s event did have a slightly smaller turnout.
“This year we had more students attend, but fewer people from the community came out,” Wagoner said.
The conference began on March 29 with two highly anticipated performances of “The Vagina Monologues” in the Cabaret Theatre, which raised $1,500 to benefit the House of Ruth, one of the nation's leading domestic violence help centers for battered women and children.
“The performances were a success because people were banging down the doors to get in,” said producer Jane Dibbell, associate professor of theatre arts.
Dibbell worked with last year’s conference bringing the Five Lesbian Brothers to campus and assumed she would participate in this year’s conference as well.
“It sort of became a tradition,” Dibbell said. “The beginning of the conference would be some kind of performance.”
Dibbell and the committee are currently considering using Ntozake Shange’s play “For Colored Girls Only,” as part of next year’s conference.
On March 30, a roundtable discussion for women of color was held to discuss discrimination against women of color.
Later that day, Argentine author Alicia Steimburg spoke about her book “Argentine Identity Today: Immigration and Latin Experience.”
During the remainder of the conference, a film screening was held and a photo exhibit was open to the community.
“We wanted to have a great mix,” Wagoner said. “Different people are drawn to different types of mediums.”
The Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Committee began in the spring of 2003 with the goal of creating an accelerated program based around the gender studies.
The program was approved by faculty but currently, there is no funding for the program. However, it is still functioning as a committee and is focusing on grant writing as a method of raising funds while committee members work on processing its purpose.
Plans for next year’s conference are starting to unfold, however Wagoner said that it is still early to begin any major planning.
“The committee is still functioning because we want to encourage dialogue and conversation,” Wagoner said.
“Similar to studying issues of race and ethnicity, it is important to study gender and sexuality because they are very intricate to who we are as a people. They effect how we understand the world,” she added.
Valerie Rojas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.