By Jasmine Huang
Filing into Convocation Hall, more than 100 people grabbed pizza and drinks before patiently waiting for the Bairnwick Women’s Center Auxiliary Board’s event, “What to Do When You’re Called Out,” to begin. Occupying seats, the floor, or any ounce of clear space, the community of Sewanee––from the football team to professors––gathered in anticipation for what would come.
On March 27, the Aux Board, with help from Kappa Alpha Order (KA) and Alpha Delta Theta (ADT), hosted this workshop teaching people how to address situations involving the “-isms,” whether it be racism, sexism, ableism, etc., when used in an offensive manner.
Aux Board representative and organizer Chandler Davenport (C’19) explained, “I really hope the people got out of it just how to have productive conversations when you’re called out, how to respond, and how to go about calling somebody out. I think it’s so important especially on Sewanee’s campus.”
She continued, “Part of Sewanee’s brand is that we’re a community. And if we can’t have open, honest conversations with our neighbors, then really, how neighborly can we be? How much of a community can we be if we can’t hold each other accountable?”
Another Aux Board representative, Lala Hilizah (C’21), said, “The members of the Aux Board put this event together months in advance, before the whole Charlie Rose scandal and incident at KA. Nevertheless, these two major events only showed the importance of the intersectionality of racism and sexual assault on this campus, and the need to create a more open campus environment by holding each other accountable.”
Earlier in the year, controversy arose when the Board of Regents decided not to rescind journalist Charlie Rose’s honorary degree after he admitted to sexually harassing several women; since then, student protests and mobilization have resulted in the revocation of his degree. Around the same time, a former KApledge used a racial slur against Hilizah; subsequently, KA agreed to sponsor the Aux Board event and required all members to attend.
Considering such circumstances on a two-way basis, Davenport and Hilizah gave the audience a brief rundown on how to approach someone for perpetuating systems of oppression, and vice versa, how to be on the receiving end.
Following opening remarks from Davenport in which she credited Melanie Vaughn (C’19) for coming up with the idea for this function, the audience watched a video by Youtuber Franchesca “Chescaleigh” Ramsey titled “Getting Called Out: How to Apologize.” In it, she gave personal accounts of her own experiences being called out and explained that a “good apology”consisted of two parts: taking responsibility and “making a commitment to change the behavior.”
Instructing everyone to place themselves in the most diverse groups possible of approximately 10 people, Aux Board representatives then joined circles to moderate conversations. Afterwards, concluding comments were made by audience members who volunteered to share their groups’ insights.
Overall, the function proved to be a success. “Way more people showed up than we had planned for, but that’s always a good problem to have. And I think people were really engaged; obviously some people were a little shy, some people just were like, ‘I don’t even know what I’m here for,’ and that’s fine, with a group that size, not everyone is going to be all in,” said Davenport.
Likewise, Hilizah concluded, “This event truly encapsulated the meaning of EQB. We were able to get the most reluctant demographic of people on this campus to come to a feminist, multicultural event, and no one got injured, so I would consider that a success and a step in the right direction.”