More than 190 Hamilton students, faculty and administrators attended the annual Posse Plus Retreat (PPR), a weekend-long event of discussion on a specific topic. The event took place Feb. 3-5 at the Radisson Hotel in Utica, N.Y., and marks the 16th year that Hamilton College has partnered with the Posse Foundation.
Every year, the Posse Foundation’s college partners participate in their own retreats that facilitate conversation focused on a specific theme. This year’s theme was “Us vs. Them? Division, Community and Identity in American Society,” prompting discussion on what various groups are created within society and how that impacts the relationships that individuals have with one another.
Reinaldo Camacho ’18 (Miami Posse 5) saw the theme as extremely relevant, stating, “I feel that this country has reached a peak in division and polarization, in predominantly the political sphere, and that has bled into other facets of American society. The election has definitely been a catalyst to this divide between multiple groups in America.”
To start the retreat, participants focused on the multiple ways they are personally divided in society. They identified how different groups are stereotypically perceived, what groups they identify or don’t identify with, in addition to who usually dictates these separations.
Subsequently, participants spoke about how dividing into separate groups can cause apathy and personal distress, but also a sense of commonality for the group members, exemplifying the importance of discussing what divisions exist and how they can be positive or negative.
Though the Posse Foundation hosted the retreat, the goal was not just for scholars to be a part of the discussion, but for those in the Hamilton community to be involved as well. More than 100 non-Posse scholars attended.
Alex Black ’19 (Boston Posse 15) explained, “I think [PPR] lets the community and (non-Posse scholars) see in an unfiltered, safe space how Posse students and others on campus may feel. It might be one of the best venues to truly hear their voice and for non-Posse students to see the challenges and tribulations that their fellow peers go through in a way they would never else be able to see it.”
Hamilton began its partnership with Posse in 2001 when the college enrolled its first posse of students from the Boston area. The college expanded its partnership with the Posse Foundation fall of 2012 when it enrolled 10 students from Miami in the class of 2014. Hamilton celebrated its 10 year anniversary of its partnership with the Posse Foundation as of March 31, 2011.
The final day of the retreat focused on how to spark conversation about division, specifically on the Hamilton campus. Participants formed groups based on a certain characteristic with which they identified, such as white, black, religious, non-gender conforming, to name a few. After speaking to their own group members about why they identified themselves as such, they paired with another group to acknowledge their differences and speak about what one group needed from the other.
PPR and the Posse Foundation as a whole teaches participants how to be facilitators of discussions that, though may be uncomfortable and challenging, are necessary in order to understand everyone living in society.