'White identity' retreat goes against equal opportunity policy

The University of Vermont is renewing a retreat exclusively for white students next February, even though it appears to violate the school’s own non-discrimination policy. 

School officials confirmed to Campus Reform Thursday that the Examining White Identity Retreat has been renewed for February 2019, and that it will give white students the ability to explore issues surrounding “identity, diversity, and culture.” 

The retreat is “specifically for white students” according to the program’s website, which explains that attendees will debate topics such as “What does it mean to be white” and “What does whiteness mean to you?”

[RELATED: UVM holds privilege retreat for students who ‘self-identify as white’]

For students, retreat goals include learning to “articulate whiteness from a personal and systematic lens,” as well as “understand white privilege from an individual experience.”

Spokesman Enrique Corredera told Campus Reform by email that the “non-credit bearing retreat is designed to engage white students who want to become more effective allies in confronting racism and supporting students of color at UVM.” 

“These students look for an educational opportunity for themselves to learn about and understand issues surrounding white identity and white privilege, their historical roots, and their current dynamics and impact,” he added. 

[RELATED: Public university to host retreat solely for ‘Women of Color’]

Instead of raising funds for the free retreat through donations or sponsorships, Corredera explained that the taxpayer-funded university finances the retreat by soliciting donations from various other departments within the school. 

The retreat reflects UVM’s commitment to “fairness, equity, and equality,” Corredera  asserted. 

However, Campus Reform then pointed out that the retreat violates the school’s own equal opportunity policy, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of unlawful criteria such as race…in admitting students to its programs…or other institutionally administered programs or activities made available to students at the university.”

[RELATED: UWSP ends discriminatory tutoring policy ‘effective immediately’]

In response, the school’s spokesman changed course, contradicting both his previous statement and the retreat’s website. 

“While the focus of this retreat is on the exploration of white identity and white privilege, non-white students are permitted to attend,” Corredera said, though he did not respond when Campus Reform pointed out that this is false according to the retreat’s own website.”

According to archived records, the retreat has never been advertised as an opportunity to anyone but white students. Its full name is “Examining White Identity: A Retreat for Undergraduate Students Who Self-Identify as White.” 

Nicholas Stanton, the Director of the Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Office at UVM, did not immediately reply to an inquiry on the retreat. This article will be updated if and when additional information is received. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen