Diversity Conference keynote speaker Brent Scarpo told his audience he was going to introduce “hate” to them.
“I know exactly where ‘hate’ comes from and where it lives,” Scarpo said. “We need to see ‘hate’ before we deal with it.”
Scarpo stood in silence while the audience patiently waited. Thirty seconds went by; nothing.
“Did you see it?” Scarpo asked the crowd.
Several audience members shook their heads in bewilderment.
“Hate lives in silence,” Scarpo said. “It is where it lives, breathes and grows.”
Scarpo, a professional actor, director, producer and speaker spoke on Saturday to nearly 75 Quinnipiac students, professors and employees at the third annual Diversity Conference in Burt Kahn Court.
“I guarantee by the end of this conference you will be transformed,” Scarpo said. “The world needs it and the country needs it. Change is necessary.”
To open his talk Scarpo stepped down from the podium in front of the crowd. He proceeded to read short summaries of acts of hate that have occurred on college campuses throughout the United States, dropping each index card on the ground when he was done reading it. Barely taking a breath in between reading each index card, he read the 21 index cards at a fast pace. Some incidents he mentioned included a gang rape at Ohio State, a racist letter to an African American leader at Penn State, swastikas drawn on an African American student organization house at University of California at Berkeley, and the recent shootings at Northern Illinois University on Feb.14.
“If you don’t think it can happen here, think again,” Scarpo told the students. “Does hate exist on college campuses in the United States? Yes it does.”
Scarpo has been traveling the United States for more than 10 years speaking at universities and high schools to spread his message. Midway through his address Scarpo showed his 1999 documentary “Journey to a Hate Free Millennium,” which featured the tragic stories of Matthew Sheppard (killed for being gay), James Byrd Jr. (brutally murdered by white supremacists) and the Columbine High School shootings.
The documentary and Scarpo’s address were the highlights of the third annual conference sponsored by SHADES and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
“I’m here to try to add to the effort to bring about inclusiveness on campus,” said sophomore Keniel McLennon, a first-time attendee. “This is a fantastic event. If everyone says they are so concerned with inclusiveness, this auditorium should be packed. People should be longing for events like this, trying to correct the problem.”
Personally I think there is a slight improvement on campus from last year, but I do still think the campus is apathetic and laid back. I see this more with the underclassmen.”
While McLennon believes the underclassmen are less involved on campus, the conference had more freshmen than any other class, shown by the amount of hands raised when Scarpo asked which classes the audience were in.
One of those freshman, occupational therapy major Tyneshia Oliver, was personally impressed with Scarpo’s keynote deliverance.
“He was really good,” Oliver said. “Some people come (to speak) on their high stand, but he came to talk to us.”
Following Scarpo’s opening speech, the conference split up into seven different “breakout sessions,” run by sociology professor Melissa Wiener, English professor Christina Ross, Residential Hall Director Greg Madrid, film professor Raymond Foery, Scarpo, director of multicultural affairs Tyrone Black, and the executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute David Ives. Each session varied in topics from “Hot Spots Around the Globe,” which dealt with important issues in other parts of the world, and “Weights of Reality,” which dealt with the different kind of issues and problems weigh on different kinds of people.
“As a member of STAND I’m interested in what’s going on in the world,” freshman nursing major Meghan Cousins said after attending “Hot Spots Around the Globe,” hosted by Ives. “My big deal is raising awareness for Darfur.”
Oliver, who attended the session “What’s Sex Got to Do with It?” found the topic of conversation appealing but would have liked to attend a different one.
“It wasn’t really for me,” Oliver said. “There was a lot of feminism – I don’t see it exactly how they see it, but it was interesting.”
Freshman political science major Paden Livingston spent his breakout session with the star of the day, Scarpo, in his session named “Why Do You Hate Me?”
“It was very powerful,” Livingston said. “He was very honest with us. He told us a great story about his mother’s death and how it affected him. I’ll admit it; I almost cried.”
Junior Daisy Vargas came away from her session with the same feeling.
“I went to ‘Weights of Reality,'” Vargas said. “It was really interesting – we talked about the weights that are put on ourselves. He (Black) was amazing. He is Tyrone!”
Livingston wrote down “words to live by” from Scarpo’s session. They included “acceptable, valuable, capable, and forgivable.”
“I firmly believe that if you live by those things you’ll lead a good life,” Livingston said.
After a quick lunch break courtesy by Chartwells, round two of the “breakout sessions” were underway. Sessions were led by student Eric Lind, residential hall directors Tiffany Gray and Anthony Brisson, business professor Kevin Taylor, sociology professor Cynthia Duarte with student Daniela DeSousa, psychology professor William Jellison, and residential hall director Dennis Lue Yat.
“I went to a session about what QU professors can do to diversify the QU mind,” junior psychology and biology major Deirdre Williams said. “It was really affective for me. It made me step outside of my box.”
Scarpo’s closing address highlighted the importance of being alert in light of the recent Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. He noted to be especially cautious to “pay attention to your surroundings” in the months of March, April, and May.
According to Black, the conference was a success.
“Between Brent Scarpo being an effective presenter to SHADES – I commend SHADES on their organization of events, and next year will be even greater.”