The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Division V region recently awarded The Day of Absence /Day of Presence organizing committee from The Evergreen State College the 2007 Innovative Program Award for its yearly diversity program efforts. The award was presented to representatives from the campus at this years NASPA convention in Las Vegas in October.
Although many of Evergreen’s campus events and activities focus on issues of diversity each and every day, the yearly observance, Day of Absence and Day of Presence, asks the entire campus to think about racial diversity for two days each year.
The Day of Absence was originally a unity dinner celebrated by our African American faculty in the mid 70’s. It grew to become an opportunity for all students, staff and faculty of color to gather off-campus for an educational and community-building retreat.
The idea for the Day of Absence came from a play of the same name by African American playwright, Douglas Turner Ward. Presented in 1965, the play is a social commentary on race relations in the U.S. and satirizes the South's refusal to see the African American as an equal member of the community. In the play, a town wakes up to find all of the African Americans missing, leaving those left to reflect on the meaning of their community without these valued members.
In the mid 90’s, the Day of Presence was added by students and staff of color in order to reunite the college community and honor diversity and unity as a whole campus.
On the Day of Absence, while students and staff of color are off campus, typically, a group of white students and staff plan educational workshops and invite guest speakers to campus to work on issues of multiculturalism from an ally perspective.
Depending on the ideas generated in the committee, the events look different every year. The primary function of the event has always been to give the campus an opportunity for community building and reflection around issues of culture, heritage and diversity. Currently the open organizing committee is meeting weekly and would like to extend an invitation for anyone from the Evergreen community to participate, for more information contact Norma Alicia Pino or Raquel Salinas at First Peoples’ Advising Services, (360) 867-6467.
The Evergreen State College is a nationally recognized public liberal arts college known for its distinctive interdisciplinary curriculum, high level of student/faculty engagement and emphasis on putting learning into action.