This summer, the news has been filled with examples of many of the uncertainties and problems that plague our world today. What is the message of Black Lives Matter? How do we uproot the racism embedded in our justice system? What does immigration reform mean? Is anonymous speech good for society; is it destructive?
In order to engage students on some of these issues, SDIS provided an opportunity for all incoming first year students to share the causes they are willing to SPEAK UP about. Incoming first-year students watched “The Danger of Silence”, a TED Talk video by Clint Smith, during a breakout session at Orientation and Registration led by SDIS. After viewing the video, students had an opportunity to send an anonymous text message to a digital bulletin board, where they named a cause that they are passionate about. After meeting with 36 different groups of students over nine Orientation days, we saw that the following topics were the most oft-submitted as ones that the students want to speak up about.
2. Black Lives Matter/Police Brutality
3. LGBTQ rights
4. Women’s rights
5. Islamophobia/Religious freedom
To respond to and generate discussion around events that matter to our students, SDIS will using these themes to help us frame our conversations during our weekly Purple Bench discussions on Friday afternoons. Purple Bench discussions are designed to encourage participants to step outside of their comfort zones, offer their opinions on challenging topics, and to not shy away from asking questions. No reading or research is required in advance at Purple Bench; it is a forum where people can talk about issues they care about, and a space where one need not be an expert in order to participate. We believe it is important to cultivate conversations on important issues that challenge us, so that we can learn from one another and become more familiar with having constructive dialogue with people who may hold and express different points of view.
During our annual Welcome Back to Campus social (September 9th 1-4 p.m.) we will provide an opportunity for the campus community to suggest other important issues we should be talking about during the upcoming school year. We really want an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to interact on the important social issues of our time, and we will continue to listen to our students and shape our weekly discussions to address the issues that matter to them.