By Bintia Drame
This year’s York Common Reader Program introduced students to a book called Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele, a social psychologist and expert on stereotype threats.
The program was sponsored by the York College Auxiliary Board, Academic Affairs and Student Development as a way to get students and teachers talking on matters that might hit close to home. The lecture explained stereotypical threats experienced on different levels.
“We wanted to give an experience for all the new students and faculty and staff to have a common reading that they could all read and talk about,” said Cynthia Haller, York College English professor. “We thought his concept of stereotype threat was very important for people to hear about.”
Most students in attendance read the book and waited to hear from the author.
“I did think the book was interesting, when he was talking about how something as small as stereotype affecting someone’s performance in a golf game and then when we’re taking SAT’s and graduate school exam,” said Ashley Pellegrino, a Social Work major. “If it affects something as small and then something big that can affect the rest of our lives, it gets kind of scary. Knowing that it’s [stereotype] there and being aware of it might help to eliminate it.”
Steele analyzed the various stereotype threats and their effects on people, the center of his writing. He said his goal for the lecture was to share his knowledge of stereotyping based on his research.
“I hope they’ll understand the concept of stereotype threat, how that can feel and what role it plays in their lives,” said Steele. “And that they’ll get some ideas on how to combat its unwanted effects.”
Steele emphasized that stereotyping limits someone from getting the whole picture of any situation. He also argued that some stereotypes are better and some worse than others.
“Whenever you stereotype you’re losing information, some stereotypes are positive and people can, in short or maybe even in long term, benefit from them,” said Steele. “But you wouldn’t advocate for that, except they are unavoidable.”
He also added that people tend to stereotype because it has a certain efficiency and ease of communication. Even though, this concept might be the justification behind stereotyping, he said that the truth of the matter is that loss of information is always the result of stereotype.
Students who attended the lecture felt they had a better understanding of the idea of stereotypes happening around them.
“I think it was a positive thing to have students come here and hear him talk about his book,” said Jacinto Lopez, a freshman Nursing major. “It’s to better understand people from different backgrounds and circumstances.”
The event was for students who had read the book in class as part of the common reader program, but also present were students who heard of the lecture or saw fliers around the school.
“I felt it was very informative especially on stereotypes, you don’t hear people address it much,” said Adebayo Fayemi, a senior Music major. “He’s a very good speaker, this is my introduction to the book and it recommended me to the book.”
This lecture on stereotype threats gave students an insight on the effects and the power stereotype threat can have. And professors and staff would help bring awareness to the matter.
“So that the students would understand that it is a study and something that is very relevant today within regards to folks that are dealing with stereotypes overall,” said Tina Reynolds, a Behavioral Sciences professor. “A fruitful change in a way in which a person can see themselves, I think it’s always all good.”
Different groups become targets of stereotyping based on their gender, race, religion and more. Stereotypes of other cultures and social groups are common in essentially all societies, according to National Stereotypes. These aspects of stereotypes are the basis of the threats and in some way or another pertain to many people.
“I really enjoyed the book because as a black female, I feel like I can relate and understand what he was talking about,” said Khadija Dunston freshman political science major
The lecture in general prioritize the stigma of stereotyping, the impact it has on an individual and what to do about it.
“What our work is trying to focus on, are alleviating the bad effects of bad stereotypes,” said Steele. “And acknowledging that there’s not enough benefit to justify encouraging people to stereotype.