The Hawaii Club of Harvard hosted a conference on ethnic and race relations last weekend which drew more than 250 college students from across the country.
Mark K. Arimoto '99, the administrative chair for the conference, said the purpose of the gathering was two-fold.
"We wanted to examine Hawaii's multicultural society and through that lens, the question of whether or not Hawaii can serve as a model for the entire nation," he said.
The "mixed plate" metaphor for Hawaii's culture figured prominently in the discussion, Arimoto said.
"The 'mixed plate' description, as opposed to the melting pot, maintains that separate ethnic groups keep their distinct cultures, but blend together into a tasty whole," he said.
While the conference did not reach any final answers on the questions raised, "It provided an open, frank and honest discussion on race and ethnic relations," Arimoto said.
"I would declare the conference a success," said Hawaii Club co-President Richard I. Lung '97. "The panel I attended on the loss of local culture through the media was very interesting."
The conference, held in Emerson Hall on Friday and Saturday, featured panel discussions and work-shops with academics, politicians and community activists from Hawaii, Ashimoto said.
Students from many East-Coast colleges, including all eight Ivies, attended the conference. Others came from as far away as Notre Dame, he said.
The conference concluded Saturday night with a Lu'au held in Pforzheimer House dining hall. The celebration, which drew more than 300 people, featured traditional Hawaiian food and entertainment, including Hawaiian music and singing, said Kim K. Bortfeld '99, the Lu'au coordinator.
"It was a great time," she said. "Everyone had a lot of fun."
Conference participants from other schools were housed on campus by Harvard students.
"We had six, no maybe it was eight people in my room," Lung said.
The Hawaii Club, whose formal name is "Holoimua o Hawaii," was formed a year ago and has about 50 members, Arimoto said.
Club members have been working on the conference since the beginning of last summer, Bortfeld said.
Funding for the conference was provided by the Harvard Foundation, the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Dean of Students Office, Arimoto said