The Issues Committee's lecture series will host controversial psychologist Jane Elliott on Monday, March 18 in the UC Auditorium to discuss race relations in society.
Elliott is a teacher, lecturer and diversity trainer, and is the recipient of the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education. She is most well known for her "blue eyes/brown eyes" exercise that was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968 and has been replicated by psychologists and corporations, and at various seminars.
The study first involved splitting Elliott's first grade class into blue eyed and brown eyed groups. Each group had a day of being the superior and the inferior group. The superior group was given extra privileges and encouragements, while the inferior group was either ignored or chastised by Elliott and the other students.
Throughout the exercise, Elliott emphasized various differences between the two types to show both groups what racism and prejudice really felt like. Much criticism and controversy came as a result of the study being published.
Alexandra Chiasson, member of the Issues Committee, is the one who proposed that Elliott come to UT. She saw Elliott and her study in a documentary during a sociology class.
"Her experiments really impacted me," Chiasson, a junior in English, said. "She is a strong, scary woman and her experiments have done a lot to expose racism in America."
Elliott is known for having a strong personality and being passionate in her views against bigotry and prejudice of all varieties. Stuttgarter Zeitung, a German newspaper that is quoted on Elliott's website, writes of the blue eyes/brown eyes study, "For three quarters of the time in this documentation Jane Elliott is the meanest, the lowest, the most detestful, the most hypocritical human being hell has ever spit back on earth. But she should be an example for all of us."
Because Elliott is such a widely recognized figure in psychology and education, Lisa Dicker, chair of the Issues Committee, is excited to bring her to campus.
"Elliot's exercise is one of the most basic studies taught in many psychology classes," Dicker, a junior in political science said. "To have such a prominent individual speak on our campus is a wonderful opportunity."
In deciding who comes to campus to speak, the Issues Committee suggests speakers who are then debated, discussed and ranked. The final decisions are based on cost, variety and student demand.
As a lot of students at UT are interested in psychology on some level, Chiasson thinks the event will attract a large audience and inspire dialogue on the issue of racism and prejudice.
"I hope she will talk about institutionalized racism, more subtle ways that people are racist," Chiasson said. "We want to hear about the impacts of race at the university level and concrete solutions we can help with. It will be very thought-provoking."