On March 31, as part of a broader series of conversations about Lewis & Clark’s name, the college announced three upcoming events hosted by the Community Dialogues Planning Committee.
The Executive Council created this committee and announced the dialogue series on March 4. The committees’ two co-chairs are Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Education Janet Bixby and Douglas K. Newell Professor of Teaching Excellence Janet Steverson. Other members consist of faculty, students, staff and alumni from all three campuses. This committee formed in response to concerns from a small, informal committee that held biweekly conversations in the fall.
Associated Student Body President Sarah Lind-MacMillan ’22 was part of this informal committee, and is now the undergraduate student representative on the dialogue committee.
“I worked with Robin to kind of create a proposal to kind of initially flesh out what a conversation within our community would look like to bring everyone together,” Lind-MacMillan said. “Recognizing that not everyone has the same understanding, or the same education about Indigenous issues, the history of the college, the history of Lewis and Clark as people, lots of different things.”
According to the LC webpage, these events are formulated as learning experiences “envisioned as the first in a series of community dialogues designed to facilitate bold conversations about topics of importance to the L&C community.”
The first event will be a panel discussion held on April 11 from 10 to 11 a.m. in Agnes Flanagan Chapel. Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan will give opening remarks before opening the floor for panelists. These include Associate Professor Jess Perlitz who has worked with the Portland Monuments Memorial Project, Professor and Department Chair of Rhetoric and Media Studies Mitch Reyes who will discuss public memory and Professor Emeritus Stephen Dow Beckham. David Harrelson ’07, who is the cultural resources department manager for The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and a tribal member, will also sit on the panel. Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce
Suttmeier will serve as moderator. The panel is set to be live streamed for community members who cannot attend in person and a recording will be posted on the LC website for 24 hours after the event. Additionally, a pre-recorded small group discussion composed of Native American members of the LC community will be made available online as the second part of the discussion.
The final event of this dialogue will be a community discussion held on April 12 from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at the graduate campus’s chapel. The discussion will be moderated by an outside facilitator. According to Bixby, community members who wish to participate in the final event should view the other two parts of the dialogue beforehand to encourage informed participation. Both in-person events will require reservations and LC ID cards.
While the name of LC and its history will be discussed, the role of the first community dialogue is not to determine if there will be a name change.
“This is not set up to and it will not determine if we are going to change the name or not,” Bixby said. “It’s a much larger, more complex set of processes. This is community dialogues one.”
According to Lind-MacMillan, the process to determine if a name change is appropriate would be much more intensive.
“There’s lots of different thoughts within our larger school and Portland community of the name of Lewis & Clark,” Lind-MacMillan. “For now, it’s less about changing the name of Lewis & Clark, because the reality is that’s a multi-year process, at least according to what I’ve heard from administrators. This is more of how can we all get on the same page of understanding the weight of these issues, because all of us have just very different perspectives and backgrounds.”
For Bixby, these conversations play a vital role even though a name change is not being considered at this time.
“It’s a passion of mine that we get back to a place where we can have meaningful dialogue across difference,” Bixby said. “We can be open minded, we can listen to each other, we can have hard conversations about meaningful topics. Also (to) do that in a way that serves the function of equity and social justice.”
Future installments of the Community Dialogues series will be shaped by the feedback and discussion resulting from the first dialogue. The committee plans to create a survey to plan future events for the 2022- 23 academic year. According to Senior Advisor to the President for Communications Lois Davis, future dialogues will also extend to other topics besides LC’s name.
“Whatever the recommendation is about continuing dialogues on this topic, I know from talking to Robin that she also wants the dialogues to take on other difficult topics as well,” Davis said. “Over time, I think there will be a number of conversations about a number of topics, because there’s … lots of challenging topics out there.”
Additional reporting by Amelia Doyle.