This conference grew out of NYU's unique willingness to allow students to grapple with the complicated issues they confront when studying away. The first conference, structured as an All-Campus Teach-In at NYU Florence on March 24, 2016, was developed by a student committee convened by NYU Florence Director Ellyn Toscano. The questions posed for the first conference included:
How does racism and discrimination operate in different geographical contexts, reflecting local tensions and prejudices and intersecting with issues of nationality, class, gender, religion, marginality, citizenship, and globalization? How does location affect the way in which we think about the social constructions of race and race relations? What role do historical experiences of slavery, discrimination and colonialism play? How does the current migration crisis in Europe and mounting Islamophobia help us better understand the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Europe?
Asking those questions lead to a continuing dialogue and a second conference in New York on October 28, 2016. A diverse group of students has been involved in all three conferences, starting as freshman and sophomores in Florence, they presented and performed in Brussels as juniors and seniors. A number of NYU faculty have also been involved in all three conferences, including members of the faculty committee Deb Willis and Dipti Desai.
Italian Member of the European Parliament Cécile Kyenge participated in the first Race, Racism, and Xenophobia conference in Florence and the second in New York. A member of the Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup, Ms. Kyenge was so impressed that she invited NYU to organize a conference for the European Parliament and the public in Brussels. During her opening remarks on November 9, Ms. Kyenge praised NYU's interdisciplinary efforts, noting that the university does not "stop at scholarly discussion, but also takes a creative approach."
That is in part what the students found inspiring. Helen You, a CAS senior who has participated in all three conferences, described the vibrancy of the event. "As someone who is both an IR major and potentially going to law school, but who danced and played music throughout my life, I really appreciate just how diverse we have made this conversation. I mean, we have everyone from the Law School to Tisch siting in this room to talk about issues that span across all departments and that is just amazing." She and other students expressed their gratitude for the professors and administrators helped to make the conferences happen. Helen also especially thanked NYU Florence Director Ellyn Toscano on behalf of the students, saying, "So often, students have a passion and an idea in their heads, but they don't have the opportunity to explore it and create something meaningful. You gave us the confidence and the voice to share our stories and make this conference a platform for change and we never thought that something like this could happen. Thank you so much for everything you have done for us and your support."
To learn more, visit Global Dimensions, the blog for NYU’s global sites and programs.