Summer of controversy


Kendal Santiago, Staff Writer

For the past few years the Womyn’s Resource Center (WRC), an on-campus organization and office, has been hosting an event called Summer of Controversy. This event is exactly what it sounds like: a chance to address issues that took place over the summer, specifically the ongoing issue of police brutality.

According to Alane Varga, Utica College’s Dean for diversity and student development and the advisor for WRC, Summer of Controversy has been an annual event since 2012.

“It started right after the Trayvon Martin incident… The original [idea] was to address the use of force against black males,” Varga said.

Over the years, as the issue has grown and has shaken the nation, the specifics of the event has varied. However, it has always been about the way some law enforcement unfairly treat minorities. This year’s event took place on Oct. 6 in the Pioneer Café. WRC collaborated with the Black Student Union (BSU), NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the Diversity Committee to discuss and share the most infamous stories of recent victims.

Varga shared some details about what goes into planning Summer of Controversy. Programming interns from WRC, and students from other collaborating organizations, plan and implement the entire event.

Varga said everyone involved in planning the event considers what their goals are; what issues need to be addressed; what speakers would be best to represent different perspectives; and most importantly how can they provide a space where people feel comfortable engaging in conversations they wouldn’t normally engage in.

Ransey Perry, senior at Utica College and vice president of BSU, shared what she wanted her organization to contribute to this year’s Summer of Controversy and her hopes for the event in the future.

“There was a lot of planning that went into the event,” Perry said. “We had meetings with the executive boards of other organizations. We extended invitations to different organizations. Next time, I would like to extend the invitation to not only different organizations, but different departments. For example, the history or political justice department. Those professors can further extend the invitation to other students.”

Although not as many members of the UC community came to the event as Perry anticipated, dozens of students and several professors did show up and actively participated, including Professor Jeff Miller, who teaches in the communication and arts department.

Professor Miller decided to attend the event, not only because he was invited, but because he “has to be concerned.”

“My wife and my daughters are women of color. I have a different experience from other people…I have some experience that makes me more aware,” he said.

Miller believes conversations like the ones held at this event are very necessary, even on this campus.

“I think it’s too bad that students have to organize it, but it’s terrific,” Miller said. “I’m glad students are developing the skills to do it themselves. It would be a shame if we didn’t have these discussions.”

Alane Varga agreed with Miller.

“This is part of who we are as an institution…We need to come together and have those conversations,” Varga said.

Varga hopes that those who attended this event will “take what you learn here with you.” She hopes that as students graduate and continue their journey that they think about things differently after engaging in these conversations.

Miller also expressed what he would hope to see in the future as a result of events like Summer of Controversy. Miller would like to see people from all demographics come together and learn what it means to treat people equally.

“I’m not talking about heaven on Earth because if that’s the goal we’ll always fail,” he said. He believes we should “work towards a community where people love each other.”