(Photo: Regis University)
On Wednesday, April 5, students, faculty and administration gathered in Claver Hall for“Courageous Conversations: Race at Regis,” a discussion of racial tensions on campus and nationwide. The dialogue was scheduled to take place in Claver 410, but participants quickly outgrew the space and migrated to the higher capacity Mountain View Room. As community members filled up the space with chairs around the perimeter of the room, Dan Justin, interim director of the Institute on the Common Good, started the dialogue by saying “This is a good thing to run out of space, handouts and name tags; basically everything besides cookies.”
The attendance surpassed the event coordinators’ expectations and a rough estimate suggests 150-160 people joined the conversation. At the beginning of the night, Justin asked students to decide if they wanted administrators to join the conversation as participants, not administrators. The overwhelming consensus of yes brought a group of administrators, including Regis President Father Fitzgibbons into room.
Justin led the room in an Examen and called us to remember the Jesuit supposition of charity: the practice of suspending judgment to trust in good intentions of others. This introduction set a tone for constructive dialogue and transitioned into an introduction of the conversation facilitator, Leilani Henry. The conversation started with an open question: “What does conflict look like with unity of heart and mind?” In each small group, this was posed to one person and after they answered, they presented a different question to the person next to them. After 30 minutes, the room joined back together and each group shared the last open question their group shared.
Questions ranged in content and depth, all equally worthy of consideration and discussion. One student shared her disappointment in the conversation; she had come to the dialogue to talk about race and felt the question beat around the bush. Shortly after, another student courteously asked for clarification of the “All Lives Matter” statement and this ignited the room in conversation.
Across the room, students answered this question with unique metaphors and firm declarations. This distinction was echoed across the room, which really clarified the offense that the “All Lives Matter” statement invokes.
Members of the College Republicans club shared a sentiment of their desire to join together with the Black Student Alliance to improve the campus community. Other members of the conservative student organization spoke out to defend the controversial Social Justice Bake Sale that was recently held on campus. Toward the end of his statement, one student reflected on his surprise that he had not been shouted down. The room was itching to respond to him, but he was right; no one shouted and he was able to finish his entire statement. This was testament to the ability of the community to listen. And, while disagreements are rampant, respect comes above that. Dan Justin shared, “conversations can only happen when we come together as equals,” and this dialogue was proof of the desire to do so.
Toward the end of the evening, students asked for the administrators to speak on the actions they will take in the wake of recent conflicts on campus. President Father Fitzgibbons shared lessons he would take away from the discussion, but failed to provide tangible actions to answer to the demands of the students. Of course, administration must be mindful of what they share due to legal red tape; however, the call from students to administration was clear: be accountable to the students and take action on blatant injustices on campus. It is no longer acceptable to turn a blind eye or to sweep things under the rug, and students made sure their call to action was heard.
The evening concluded, but students continued to discuss in small groups and personally address some of the faculty in attendance, including President Father Fitzgibbons and Dean of Students Diane McSheehy. A lot of questions remained unanswered and no “solution” concluded the conversation. Racial tension on our campus and in our country isn’t going to be repaired with a quick fix, so the only way to start is through dialogue that brings us together.
Showing up, listening, learning and sharing are all just the beginning of building a better community. Courageous Conversations is a series of dialogues with six upcoming discussions on the calendar. Please attend, if not to speak, then to listen and learn from your fellow Regis students, as this is the first step to uniting a divided campus and country.
Wednesday, April 12, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Modular 185
Tuesday, April 18, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Claver 210
Thursday, April 20, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Modular 185
Tuesday, April 25, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Main Hall 333
Thursday, April 27, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Claver 210
Marley Weaver-Gabel Editor-In-Chief