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Columbia University to host no-whites-allowed student leadership retreat

Students of color at Columbia University can apply to attend an upcoming racially segregated retreat hosted by the school that promises to embolden and empower participants, according to organizers.

The “Students of Color Leadership Retreat 2016” is open to students within the Columbia University undergraduate community, including its all-women’s Barnard College.

Slated for the weekend of Nov. 12 at Greenkill Retreat Center at the New York YMCA Camp, the event is billed as “an intensive weekend of personal development, empowerment and community building for student leaders at Barnard and Columbia who identify as African/African-American/Black, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Asian-American, Pacific Islander, Arab and Middle-Eastern, Native & Indigenous, and Multiethnic/Multiracial,” according to the university’s website as well as the retreat’s online application form.

“SOCLR is designed for students who identify themselves as a person of color as a primary identity,” Columbia’s website adds.

The application asks students to state their gender identity/expression, their gender pronoun, their racial identity, and also answer a few questions on what they plan to gain from attending the retreat, paid for by the private, Ivy League institution. Lodging, food and transportation are provided, the application notes.

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Event organizers declined to comment to The College Fix, instead redirecting email inquiries to other campus officials.

Asked for additional information, such as whether white students may attend, the cost of the retreat, and about how many students will attend, Melinda Aquino, associate dean of multicultural affairs in Columbia College and Columbia Engineering Undergraduate Student Life, gave a statement on the benefits of the event in an email to The College Fix.

“The Students of Color Leadership Retreat is a long-standing annual program for undergraduates at Columbia and Barnard,” Aquino stated. “The program, which is geared towards any student who self-identifies as a student of color, provides structured activities and guided exercises that enable participants to build community and reflect on their abilities to effect positive change within their own lives, within student organizations, within the Columbia University community, and within society at large.”

Aquino pointed out the Office of Multicultural Affairs also hosts other leadership and community-building programs and retreats that meet the needs of “all students interested in diversity and identity,” including an LGBTQ leadership retreat and an “Intergroup Community Building Initiative” retreat, aimed at creating a more “cohesive” Columbia that affirms “all identities and creates a space for healthy discourse about divisive issues.”

The multicultural office also offers a racially themed mentoring program called the Columbia Mentoring Initiative, which offers programming to the following groups:

Arab & Middle Eastern Family Tree
Asian Family Tree
Black Family Tree
Indigenous Family Tree
Latinx Family Tree
LGBTQ Family Tree
Mosaic Family Tree (International & Multiracial)

Columbia also offers a Global Ambassadors Program, which connects American students and international students through programming and conversations, according to Aquino.

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About the Author
Toni Airaksinen -- Barnard College