Conference to focus on race in higher education

Organizers hope students can learn from each other’s struggles and share in their triumphs.

University of Redlands students Jonathan Garcia and Elana Rapp share a dream: That university students all over Southern California can work together for equality.

They and a team of about 20 of their cohorts are organizing a conference that aims to bring together students to talk about racial issues on the region’s campuses.

The event, “Race on Campus: A Student Conference,” is set for noon to midnight on Friday, May 6 in Bekins Hall with an optional brunch meeting from 10 a.m.–noon on Saturday, May 7. All events are free and open only to college students.

The event aims to bring together students from colleges all over the region to discuss issues relating to race in higher education.

“We’re all in Southern California, we’re not far. Why don’t we get everybody in a room together?” Garcia said.

The conference is part of a May Term course in the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies that starts on May 2. Students will spend the first week continuing to plan the conference—they have been planning it on their own time for several weeks—and the following three weeks researching the issues that were brought up and processing the lessons learned.

Garcia feels now is a good time for this event because racial violence has been in the news frequently in recent months and people are talking about it.

He hopes to steer that conversation toward how racial issues affect college students. “There are inequalities in race all over our nation, but especially in education,” he said.

Garcia was one of the facilitators of a recent forum about racial issues on the Redlands campus, an event that drew more than 600 students.

The Friday event will include several guest speakers, a keynote panel discussion, lunch, dinner and an open mic session for poets and musicians. 

The organizers hope the conference will illuminate racial issues at work on other campuses and how those students are dealing with them, said Adjunct Professor Amy Moff Hudec, the faculty advisor for the conference and May Term course.

“How are conversations different? How are different situations handled?”