The 2008 James A. Perkins Prize for Interracial Understanding and Harmony has been awarded to Black Students United (BSU) for its sponsorship of "Questions Out of a Hat," an event that brought members from nine student organizations together to discuss diversity.
On March 25, members of groups ranging from the Interfraternity Council, Cornell Hillel and Cornell Democrats to the Gay-Straight Alliance and Student Advocates of Palestine gathered in small groups. Each group picked questions that had been previously submitted anonymously about race, culture, religion or ethnicity out of a hat for discussion.
Robert L. Harris, vice provost for diversity and faculty development, presented the prize to members of BSU at a ceremony April 23 in the Carol Tatkon Center.
Honorable mentions went to the Asian and Asian American Forum and to the "Celebrating the Lunar New Year" series of events. The forum is a new student organization that was formed as a result of the 2004 "Cornell Asian and Asian-American Campus Climate Task Force Report." It has sponsored such events as a panel discussion for first-year students to adjust to life at Cornell and a stress-relief event that included crafts, massage and meditation. The Lunar New Year series, developed by Frances Yufen Lee Mehta, senior lecturer in Asian studies at Cornell, included educational, social and entertaining events from Jan. 29 through Feb. 19 to teach students about Chinese culture.
The Perkins Prize, established in 1994 by Thomas W. Jones '69, is awarded annually to recognize the significant contribution by a Cornell student, faculty, staff member or a program to advance campus interracial understanding and harmony. The prize honors former Cornell President James A. Perkins (1963 to 1969), who increased the enrollment of minority students during the 1960s. A monetary award accompanies the prize to help recipients fund continuing projects and programming.