A new humanities symposium will be taking place this fall. Revolt! Student Protest from 1968 to Today will take place in the Paff Auditorium at the Providence URI campus on September 14, 2018. English department graduate students have been a driving force in creating and organizing this new college initiative. Departments throughout the College of Arts & Sciences, as well as other programs and centers, are participating in this event which aims to have a timely and scholarly discussion of student protest, the place of protest on college campus, and activism more generally.
2018 marks 50 years since a landmark year in protest globally. From the famous May 1968 student protests in France and the demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, IL in August, to the protests of banning Dziady by students in Warsaw, Poland in March and the seven-day strike of Belgrade University students in Serbia in June, this anniversary is significant. What makes it even more timely is the recent uptick in student protest in response to systemic and institutionalized racism, the devaluing of higher education, campus rape and gender inequality, graduate student rights, and an influx of extremist speakers, among other issues. While the 1960s was a decade defined by protest worldwide, the year 1968 witnessed an escalation of unrest marked by a number of massive, and sometimes violent, student movements and as this trend seems to be repeating, we want to take the chance to discuss protest from a variety of angles.
Seeking to show of the breadth of scholarly interest at URI and to engage in interdisciplinary discussion on current events, graduate students in the English program came up with the idea for this symposium. Much of the early work involved basic planning, such as the location, date, topic, and aims of the symposium. A core team quickly evolved, Dr. Kimberly Wickham, Heather Macpherson, Laura Marciano, and Catherine Winters, with other URI faculty and students jumping in later, such as Patrick Crowley from the History department. This group proposed the event to Dr. Riley, the new dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and with her approval went on to build collaboration across the humanities fields at the university for the event.
The graduate students behind this push came to the project with varying amounts of experience, but they came together to best utilize their strengths and then reached out to key groups on campus. As the recently graduated Dr. Kim Wickham said “Planning the symposium so far has been really enjoyable. There’s a bit of a learning curve with doing something like this, but everyone brought different skills to the table, and I think we’ve been able to pull something together that’s going to be really exciting.” Catherine Winters added, “Planning an event for the first time is a unique challenge. I co-chaired the annual Graduate Student conference in 2017 in its 11th year. It’s very different to have no set templates or plans and to decide what will work best for an event that has never happened.” The graduate students are finding that this is yet another opportunity to learn and so far everything seems in place for a great day of discussion.
If you want more details about the event, you can visit the website. Updates including the schedule and keynote are expected to be announced soon.
URI College of Arts and Sciences
URI English Department
URI Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies
URI Office of Research and Economic Development
URI Graduate School
URI Center for the Humanities
URI Africana Studies Program
URI Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures
URI Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies
URI History Department
Rhode Island AFL-CIO
NEA Rhode Island
URI Graduate Assistants United