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Presentation on Posse Plus Retreat: “Us versus them”

By Candace Mettle

Last Tuesday, representatives of the College’s Posse students held an interactive presentation based around the discussions held at this year’s Posse Plus Retreat. Every year, the Posse Foundation hosts a weekend getaway to converse about current events in U.S. politics with fellow Posse members, faculty and administration members and invited non-Posse students. The topic for this year was “Us versus Them,” a take on the social divide that has plagued the both campus discussion and national politics since the election. Although social grouping is hardly new to American politics, Posse believed that recent climate warranted new discussion.

To start off the presentation ,James Caruso ’18 from D.C. Posse 10 told the audience the 15 year history of Posse at the College and the retreat.

“At [Grinnell] specifically, Posse was used to bring diversity to the campus not only through any sort of racialized diversity or socioeconomic diversity, but also voices and really encourage the leadership aspect of the Posse,” Caruso said. “The goal of Posse Plus Retreat is to synthesize what’s going on the world, what people are thinking, to be vulnerable and put yourself out there and hopefully be able to take that energy that comes from posse plus retreat and to our campuses.”

Caruso went on to describe the points of discussions during the retreat: the election, conflicts at the College, the refugee crisis and climate change.

Student Government Association President Anita DeWitt ’17 and SGA Vice President of Academic Advising Rachel Aaronson ’17 invited students to the retreat and began the first interactive discussion for the night: a Posse favorite called “Stand” that aims to encourage personal reflection and group support. The game works by someone (the leader) asking a question. Participants stand up if they can relate to the question. DeWitt and Aaronson led the game, asking questions that revolved around when and where participants feel marginalized, or a part of an “Us.”

Next, DeWitt and Aaronson opened the floor to talk more generally about what “Us versus Them” means to the people in attendance. To get more specific, DeWitt and Aaronson asked about pairs of “Us versus Them” at the College.

Attendees vocalized that they believed an “Us versus Them” mentality exists between the student body and faculty and administration; people of color and white students; and athletes versus non-athletes. The impacts of these binary relations cause campus life to be less communicative and collaborative.

However, the audience also believed that sometimes it is okay to be a part of an “Us.” Not everyone has to be the same — in fact, what makes society so interesting is when there is a multitude of identities. Additionally, attendees talked about how important it is to be around people who have similar life experiences in order to feel comfortable, or at least not alone, in difficult life situations.

To conclude the night, the Posse retreat students shared the “Action Posters” they made at the retreat and invited the audience to look at and discuss them. The purpose was to delineate how to resolve the “Us versus Them” divide when engaging at the College, in politics and the new U.S. administration.

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