Open to AllGAMBIER, Ohio (January 20, 2013)
Rebecca Chowdhury '13 of Jackson Heights, New York, is a co-founder of Project Open Voices (POV), a student-based coalition that hosts events and collects student narratives that address issues of identity, diversity, and difference at Kenyon. She talked with Joumana Khatib '13 of Upper Arlington, Ohio, who is a student writer in the Office of Public Affairs.
JK: How was POV born? What issues did it seek to address?
RC: POV came out of Martin Luther King Jr. Day last year when Andrew Firestone ('14, of New York City) read an essay that he submitted to the essay contest. It spoke about how we go to such a liberal, tolerant school, but we don't really talk about race. What does that say about us as a school? Afterwards, Andrew reached out to me and asked me to collaborate with him on addressing some of these issues. It was interesting that we were coming from very different places. I always had a community of people to discuss these things with, as it was related to my experience here and feeling different because of my class and racial background. But Andrew, a white student with class privilege, couldn't find that community of people. From there, we had a meeting with a few other interested friends, and that's what led to POV.
JK: How has POV changed your Kenyon experience?
RC: My feelings would be so different about Kenyon without POV. Having this sense of community and knowing there are other people who notice the problems that you notice-that changes your perception of what Kenyon is and what it can be. I found the solidarity and power you feel from being with others who feel the same way you do really revitalizing and refreshing. POV really is the creation of a community where social justice and activism and dialogue are at the forefront.
JK: What is it about Kenyon that allowed POV to take off?
RC: There was a need for it. If that need didn't exist, we wouldn't have had the same momentum. But there are a lot of things particular to our experience, such as going to a small school. The fact that we were able to present to trustees would be impossible at a larger school. That we can talk with faculty members about it, get their input and have them encourage their students to submit to our publication, such as Professor of Spanish Clara Román-Odio, Professor of American Studies Peter Rutkoff, and Professor of English Ivonne Garcia, would've been impossible at a big school. POV is successful because it received so much support from students, faculty, and administration. It would've been impossible without Kenyon being such a small, close-knit community.