Photo by Blake Ashby

All spring symposia canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

Due to concerns related to the spread of COVID-19 and Kate Brown’s limitations on large events, many major Lewis & Clark symposia scheduled for this spring have been canceled. Among them are the International Affairs (IA) Symposium, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)  Symposium and the Environmental Studies (ENVX) Symposium. 

The 58th annual IA symposium, titled “Facets of Force: Navigating Global Power and Influence,” was scheduled for April 6 through 8. The symposium would have tackled topics and controversy surrounding leadership from those with power and governing bodies’ response to positions of great authority. 

Student co-chair Zoey Steel ’20 expanded on what would have been discussed at the symposium and the work that had already been put into the event. 

“It is a true shame since we had an amazing lineup this year, including debates about fake news, government surveillance and pandemic response management which is particularly relevant,” Steel said via email. “Co-chairs, Kaitlyn Vlahoulis (’20) and I are disappointed to not see the work that has been put into this event since last May come to fruition, but the situation’s severity clearly demanded cancelation … We are so proud of the steering committee members for all of their hard work and I will forever be amazed by their devotion to making this event the best it could possibly be, even as we were faced with challenges along the way.”

With many of the speakers being from an older demographic and flying internationally, it would have been particularly risky for them to continue the event.

Professor of International Affairs and Faculty Advisor for the Symposium Bob Mandel spoke more on the events and goals of the symposium.

“This symposium models the value for presenting students, faculty and members of the outside community with sharply diverging perspectives within each session on global controversies, providing a shining example of critical liberal arts thinking where audience members are empowered to think for themselves after listening to opposing views,” Mandel said via email. “The Monday night session with Michael Chertoff, former Director of Homeland Security, in a spirited debate was what all of us were looking forward to the most.”

The sixth annual MENA Symposium would have been from April 1 to 3. The symposium, titled “Alternative and Emerging Histories of the Middle East and North Africa,” aimed to highlight representations of and personal stories from the MENA region that are not colonialist and focused on underrepresented and marginalized communities. The symposium would have consisted of panels on immigration experiences, comparative education, migration and two panels consisting of student research. 

“This student-led event is designed to showcase student research and local resources in the field to supplement academic opportunities on campus,” the LC website said.

One of the co-chairs of the MENA symposium, Grace Starling ’20 said that the symposium would have included a variety of works from the LC community.

“Since the MENA symposium would likely draw crowds of over 50 people, we had to cancel the symposium,” Starling said. “This came as a great disappointment due to all of the hard work students, faculty, and guests had put into what was going to be a very exciting schedule of events and great move forward in growing the symposium.”

The MENA faculty advisor, Associate Professor of Anthropology Oren Kosansky said that all of the planning this year puts the committee in a great position for next year.

The ENVX symposium would have included two Spring Engagement events, the first to Portland Harbor Superfund site on March 14 and the second was an overnight camping trip to the Klamath Basin April 10-11.

Both of these trips would have explored the “uneven development theme in the context of urban pollution in Portland and rural natural resources,” according to the LC website. The festivities would include “a day trip to the Portland Harbor Superfund site, a stretch of the Willamette River where federal and municipal agencies are addressing industrial pollution of river sediments,” the LC website said. “Participants will learn about the history and current status of this site, engage with a variety of partners who are impacted by the water quality, and have the opportunity to contribute public comments to the current proposed actions. The trip will be led by ENVS Associate Professor Jessica Kleiss.”

About 24 students had registered for the Portland Harbor engagement and 18 were registered for Klamath Basin at the time of the cancelation. Environmental Studies Program Administrative Specialist Laura Mundt BA ’91 said that there are plans to reschedule the Klamath Basin overnight trip.

“The Portland Harbor Superfund Engagement probably won’t be repeated,” Mundt said.  “That timing was tied to a special public comment period about the remediation of the site.  We are anticipating offering the trip to the Klamath Basin again next academic year, probably in the spring.  The topics that were going to be discussed dovetail well with this year’s theme of Uneven Development and next year’s theme of Conservation Science.”

LC’s symposia cover a wide range of topics and interdisciplinary approaches that contribute to the college’s goals as a liberal arts institution. More information regarding these symposia are on LC’s website.

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