Kenneth Edison & Alveena Siddiqi, Managing Editor and Staff Writer
In the current atmosphere of heightened political tension, Student Government Association (SGA) attempted to build bridges by bringing students and faculty together for a civil conversation in Founder’s Lounge on March 8.
The discussion was conducted in the form of several talking points presented on a projector screen to stimulate conversation between the students and faculty in attendance. The attendees discussed their concerns about the implications of the new presidential administration, and shared their opinions on issues such as climate change, gender inequalities and communicating across political lines.
Chaplain Scott Matheney highlighted the challenges that faith leaders have been faced with in dealing with the deep divisions that the 2016 election season has left behind within their communities.
“I was just with our new rabbi in our campus community and she said to me, ‘You know, I have to be really careful when I speak, because one half of the congregation is really pissed off about what’s happening under Trump and the other half of the congregation feels like they have to keep their mouths shut because they supported Trump,’” he said. “So what do you do when you have to walk on eggshells like that? It’s tense, it’s been really tense.”
Director of Intercultural Student Affairs Roger Moreano stressed the importance of acceptance on campus during this political climate in particular as a way of keeping the campus united.
“What we haven’t acknowledged yet is that there is something that has changed on our campus since the last election. And that is the experiences of our students from traditionally marginalized groups,” he said. “What the rhetoric of this last year has done is created fear in these groups that have historical marginalization. ”
Sophomore Josh Brucens, who identifies himself as being part of the majority as a “straight male on campus,” questioned his own place in discussing these issues, explaining that it can be difficult to be empathetic without being a part of a marginalized himself.
“So it’s difficult for us to be more understanding — it’s not that we don’t want to be open or that I don’t want to be open to understanding these issues,” he said. “They’re very complex, and if you don’t have someone that you know closely sharing their personal experiences, how are we supposed to better create an environment for learning and acceptance and moving in the right direction?”
Professor Bhoomi Thakore, director of the EC sociology program, expressed the dangers of shying away from honest and civil conversation in the current tense political and social spheres.
“It ends up feeling like your voice doesn’t matter, your perspective doesn’t matter. So if you feel alienated in this current political climate and people don’t want to hear that, or people don’t want to engage in that conversation, then it ends up feeling like your perspective doesn’t really matter,” she said. “Which is what I think are the implications of our inability to communicate across political lines.”