WMU News

Jan Elliott to present eye-opening program

November 10, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Diversity trainer Jane Elliott will present "The Anatomy of Prejudice" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, in Miller Auditorium. Her presentation, part of Western Michigan University's 1998-99 Keystone Leadership Program Lecture Series, is free and open to the public.

During the past 20 years, Elliott has committed herself to leading a fight against prejudice, ignorance and racism in society. This commitment grew out of the now legendary "Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes" classroom experiment she began in 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Elliott, a former Iowa school teacher, categorized students in her third grade class as superior or inferior based on their eye color. The learning and behavioral changes that resulted caused her and many other people across the country to re-examine their racial views.

Today her workshops attract a broad audience, including military personnel and corporate America as well as teachers and students. But she continues exploring diversity issues by grouping participants by eye color. Those with brown eyes are labeled as better and more intelligent and receive more privileges than those with blue eyes.

In a short period of time, Elliott manages to create a realistic microcosm of society featuring all of the feelings of rage, frustration and the like found in society at large. In such exercises many white people, for the first time, experience the same kind of societal discrimination that women, people of color, homosexuals and the disabled currently experience.

Elliott and her work have been the subject of three documentaries, "Eye of the Storm," "Eye of the Beholder" and the 1996 release, "Blue Eyed." In addition plans are in the works for Walt Disney Pictures to produce a feature-length film with Susan Sarandon playing Elliott.

The Keystone Leadership Program, a registered student organization, helps students enhance their leadership skills and personal growth. Elliott's visit is being sponsored by a variety of campus groups and offices as well as the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

Media Advisory To confirm or arrange media coverage, call Brad Harr, leadership development coordinator in the Office of Student Life, at (616) 387-2138 or call Jeanne Baron in the Office of Marketing, Public Relations and Communication at (616) 387-8433. No video taping of Elliott will be allowed, but still photography will be permitted. A 10-minute question-and-answer period for the media will be held immediately following the talk. A photo of Elliott may be downloaded from the WMU News page of the University's World Wide Web site at <www.wmich.edu/wmu/news/>.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400