We, as The Knox Student editorial board, disagree with the manner in which the Knox Conservatives held their “Change My Mind” event in Seymour Gallery last week. We charge the entire Knox community with the task of planning future attempts at dialogue or discussion on such difficult subjects in a way that will allow those involved to benefit as much as possible.
After reporter Sam Lisec spoke with the conservatives, which you can read about in our follow-up coverage in the news section, it is clear that this event was meant to provoke strong emotional responses, and not actually do any changing of minds or constructive dialogue.
The modeling of the event after ones held by Steven Crowder, a well-known right-wing extremist, is inexcusable. While the Conservative Club says that they did it “for the meme,” as it’s instantly recognizable to many college students, they were not treating it like just a meme, or a joke. They were actually emulating it, and emulating a man with dangerous views on subjects that inarguably directly impact millions of people, including students at Knox.
It is clear to anyone who has ever walked by a group tabling during lunch or dinner that the Seymour Gallery is not a convenient place to chat, especially about such packed and emotional topics. It’s clear it was chosen because of the heavy foot traffic nearby, but it would’ve been more productive to use that time to invite members of Knox’s community to a real, substantive dialogue at a later date in a location that lends itself to the seriousness and depth of the subjects discussed.
Every year, the Social Justice Dialogues Program, co-directed by Catherine Denial and Gabrielle Raley, offers several social justice dialogue courses, both topical ones that focus on issues such as race, socio-economic status, religion etc., as well as a course that trains students in effective dialogue techniques. The students who participate in the training course emerge having been given the necessary tools to help facilitate a productive and honest dialogue session.
These facilitators were specifically utilized last spring during the Hillel Against Hate event, as each table of attendees had a trained facilitator among them. This format not only allowed for a more effective dialogue experience, it was also cited by many who attended as a reason they felt comfortable attending a dialogue on such a difficult topic.
We know that Knox is a school that prides itself on diversity and dialogue. We know that at Knox we are supposed to listen to people who do not agree with us. We believe this must also be done in a way all parties agree to, so a scheduled dialogue that is widely publicized and located in a space conducive to the topic at hand is obviously preferable to any group trying to catch someone off guard while they make their way around campus.
We must treat the topics discussed in honest dialogues with the respect and seriousness they deserve, otherwise we will continue to fail in our pursuit to successfully listen, learn and/or relate to different people on campus.