Discussion not debate

Conceptual classroom series

Megan Marron ‘18, Staff writer

In a society in which taking action is valued more than talking, taking time to have open and informed conversations is more important than ever.

The Intergroup Dialogue program at Lebanon Valley College is doing just that. Organized by Dr. Cathy Romagnolo, Olajiwon McCadney, Dr. Holly Wendt, Michael Davis, Heidi Freeland-Trail, Cona Marshall and Dr. Matthew Sayers, this program has the goal of facilitating dialogues that offer variations in perspectives and create an informed public.

The four “rules” of Intergroup Dialogue are these: listen to understand, suspend judgment, respect all and speak your voice.

The Oct. 4 dialogue was centered around the topic of police violence and social protest. Occurrences of police brutality and hated of blacks in the United States have led to a surge in discussion and debate throughout the nation.

The event began with the establishment of “societal norms,” which were decided upon by the group. These norms served as a way to keep order during the dialogue.

“An Intergroup Dialogue is a place in which everyone could be bold and brave in speaking your truth,” Olajiwon McCadney, Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs & Inclusive Programming, said.

The leaders of the dialogue used the electronic Poll Everywhere system to pose four questions to spark thought. Participants used their cell phones to text in their answers, which then appeared on the projector screen. This system allowed for honest and anonymous expression of thought.

After this initial activity, the dialogue truly began. More than 60 individuals took part in the discussion. These participants ranged from students to professors to community members.

Topics of discussion included the “correct” way to protest, whether or how the media skew in today’s society and how generalizations on both sides of the argument create problems.

Participants of diverse races and genders contributed to the exchange of ideas.

“I went to voice my opinion and listen to what others had to say too,” senior Brandi Whitman said. “Afterwards, I felt less isolated. I realized that many of the students and faculty in the room were on the same page as me with supporting and trying to understand but also wondering what we could do to help create progress.”

The next Intergroup Dialogue will take place on Oct. 25, and will address the topic of traditional manhood and masculinity. In addition to these dialogues, Dr. Cathy Romagnolo will also be teaching an Intergroup Dialogue class on race in the spring semester. The class will be held on Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m.