Assistant Student Director
Social privilege was the topic of discussion for SGA’s third installment of the Civil Discourse series last night. The event was the last in the series for this semester, and nearly every seat in Boyer 131 was occupied.
According to a poll taken before the discourse began, 27 students in attendance had come to previous Civil Discourse meetings, while 32 students were attending for the first time.
“We’re trying to take controversial topics and be able to engage the student body so we can not only educate students but help them determine their own opinions and help them shape their own belief systems on these issues,” said SGA’s Vice President of Communication Sarah Fertsch.
The event opened with a speech by Brandon Hoover, director of sustainability. Hoover spoke about how privilege is often hard to talk about, but invited students to “name their privilege” in order to be more aware when engaging in the conversation.
Kelly Hopkins, SGA’s Vice President of Diversity Affairs, introduced some of the main types of privilege that were possible points of discussion throughout the night, including gender, economic, racial, able-bodied and Christian privilege.
Students then broke out into small groups and discussed topics led by Hopkins, such as the ways in which individuals may have privilege, and what advantages students believe having lighter skin might give a person both in the United States and around the world.
After small group discussion, the meeting transitioned to a panel-style fishbowl discussion that was open to anyone. The questions for the fishbowl were generated via SGA’s social media, a new strategy they had decided to use to gather audience feedback.
Caitlin Fong, ‘19, has attended all three Civil Discourse events so far and participated in the fishbowl discussion despite some initial discomfort. “I really don’t like public speaking, but sometimes I just feel like I have something to say,” Fong said. “When that does happen or it’s related to a topic that I feel strongly about or that I feel like I can contribute positively to, then I will go up.”
“If you see a friend here, you can continue the conversation somewhere else,” Fong went on to say. She added that she enjoys the discussion series because it’s a way to engage with fellow students about the tensions that may exist on campus.
For students who may be tentative about coming to the Civil Discourse events, Hopkins said, “We’re all students, we’re all friends. The common goal is to have civil, respectful, Christ-like dialog. This is a place where you’re respected and we work really hard to create that kind of environment.”
This event will be the last of the semester, but the series will continue next semester, with junior Horacia Carryl replacing Hopkins as VP of Diversity Affairs.