Diversity Dine-In: Asking the Hard Questions

By Alondra Alba

diversity

The Office of Multicultural Affairs has started hosting a Diversity Dine-In every month. The purpose of the Dine-Ins are to provide a safe space to have an open discussion about events and issues that pertain to Roanoke College, the local, national, and global community.

As Director Juliet Lowery of OMA puts it, “We’re finding here on campus that people do have a lot of questions about various topics and issues and we want people to be comfortable talking about them”.

“We can agree to disagree, but it’s all about respect”, says Alexis Rixner. “Whatever you say in this room would not be talked about negatively outside this room because you shared your opinion and that’s respected.”

Last Thursday, to address any questions that students and faculty, may have, the theme of the Diversity Dine-In was “Asking the Hard Questions”. Students and faculty were asked to submit questions of any topic that they may hesitate to ask to a larger group. The questions were then put into a bowl and read out loud to start a discussion.

One question, “Why are safe spaces important?” then lead to another question by another student, “Why do people think safe spaces are coddling? Why is it a foreign concept that people want to feel safe?”

Students discuss their experiences in relation to the question. The purpose of this is to provide an identity to the struggle. If students aren’t made aware of their privilege then they either ridicule the topic or try to oppress discussions about it.

The point of these talks is to provide two sides of the argument. Students and faculty are allowed to chime in on the question, on whichever side they may be on, and are then set to discuss it between themselves, whom have had such experiences to the topic, or to any other in the room who has had experiences similar to them.

“Be mindful of your opinion,” says Rixner while discussing safe spaces. “Don’t base your opinion on generalizations, but on your own experiences by using ‘I’ statements.”

“In the classroom, as time goes on, everyone sees that we all have bad answers, even me,” says Dr. Hollis of the Chemistry department.

The session allows for discourse where students and faculty are allowed to share their opinions. In fact, in these sessions, faculty, like Director Lowery and Dr. Hollis, are there not just to serve as mediators, but also to understand the experiences of students and see what they can do to improve the environment of Roanoke College.

The next Diversity Dine-In will be Tuesday, March 29 at 12 PM in Garrett. The topic will be Interfaith.