Diversity and the promotion ofculturalawareness—these phrases garner substantial attention at college campuses across the country—but what do they actually mean? A new ASSU initiative, Camp Anytown, seeks to explore these concepts in order to identify methods by which students can broaden cultural dialogue on campus.
Camp Anytown was advertised as the collaboration of “a group of dedicated and passionate freshmen and upper class mentors who work together on initiatives to improve life for students at Stanford.” This past January, the program’s coordinating team interviewed a pool of applicants and eventually selected 37 freshmen who will comprise the Camp Anytown Leaders Alliance.
Camp Anytown’s recent retreat was in San Francisco. Organizers and the selected freshmen were to engage in awareness-building and bond-strengthening activities over three days. Among the activities conducted were icebreakers such as “The Human Knot,” roundtable group discussions about relevant topics and world issues, and several formal forums during which participants shared their own stories and experiences with regard to diversity.
Brittany Martino ‘14 was selected to be a Camp Anytown participant, and she claimed that the weekend itself is difficult to describe to those who were not there themselves because she believes that a lot of the weekend was spent in conversations specifically regarding the leaders’ own experiences and background.
She said, “Throughout the weekend, my perspectives were constantly challenged as I saw my views contrast directly with those of my peers,’ and in comparison to [what was termed] ‘Society’s Role.’” She explained that the latter was a crafted representation of society’s implicit and explicit views on diversity, actively role-played for the sake of emphasis by speaker Calvin Terrell, the Camp Anytown head organizer.
The initiative is in its first year and is likely to return, judging by its mostly positive reviews from participants. However, it appears that the organize will continue working throughout the rest of the year. Part of the program’s mission is to raise “cultural sensitivity” and ultimately to develop a “unified Stanford.” This goal, the leaders believe, involves facilitating formal discussion with ASSU affiliates as well as faculty members.
Camp Anytown’s students are excited about the group’s future. “I’m really looking forward to working on some of the ideas we developed as a group on our retreat. One of the new initiatives that [has] the potential to be really fun and eye opening is a dorm exchange that another of the group proposed,” said Marino. She emphasized, “Basically, we’re interested in advocacy and are excited about getting other students to be excited about their communities too.”
In its current state, Camp Anytown is still new and has unrealized plans. However, some students familiar with the program have claimed that going forward, it may be important to ensure that Camp Anytown is truly a collaboration of diverse perspectives, rather than a collection of peeved representatives of minority groups.
When contacted for comment about Camp Anytown’s mission and its independence as a student initiative, the Camp’s organizers Robin Perani ‘13 and Kamil Saeid ’13 of the ASSU’s Advocacy Committee declined to comment or respond to the production of this piece.
Currently, Camp Anytown is an independent student initiative disconnected from any group-specific goals of cultural assemblies on campus. Regardless of concentrated campus affiliation, Camp Anytown goal is to facilitate the Stanford dialog about culture, ethnicity, and race. It attempts to answer the ultimate question: what exactly is diversity?