HRL conference makes effort to open discussions on gender

Michael McKay

Housing and Residence Life is offering an opportunity for students to get a new perspective on gender issues.

HRL is hosting its second annual Gender and Communication Conference today in Grise Hall from 3 to 7 p.m. followed by dinner in the Downing University Center Cupola Room.

The conference will include sessions  such as “Gender and Politics,” “Gender on the Job” and others about the ways gender affects different aspects of people’s lives.

 Blair Silliman, coordinator of Student Programs for HRL, said the conference is about exploring diverse perspectives on gender and helping students have a better understanding of themselves.

“We want to address the person, not just the student, but the person as well,” Silliman said. “So being able to offer programs like these will force them to think about who they are and how they identify themselves and interact with other people.”

Silliman said she feels HRL is responsible for helping students understand topics such as gender.

“The mission of the department is to ensure student success, and part of ensuring student success is to make sure they feel valued and comfortable, and accepted as members of this campus community,” Silliman said.

Kat Michael, assistant residence hall director in Rodes-Harlin Hall, designed and will be moderating a session called Gender and Sexuality.

Michael said it will be a panel discussion with students that will cover a spectrum of issues in sexuality and gender from stereotyping to the transgender movement.

“This is a unique topic on this campus that is very much in the dark,” Michael said.

Michael said she wants to give students a vocabulary to be able to understand and talk about sexuality.

She said members of the Student Identity Outreach will be on hand to talk to students after the session.

Silliman said her office would be able to direct students to resources like SIO after the conference.

“It’s more than just bringing these conferences together,” Silliman said. “We’re talking about helping these students gain awareness about themselves and about others as well.”