by Chris Reichert | Staff Writer
Whitworth’s student government, ASWU will launch its town hall series with an event titled “Take a Stand or Take a Knee: Social Justice, Free Speech, and Patriotism in The United States.” The series will feature a introduction on a topic which students will then be given a chance to discuss.
“The execs, and ASWU as a whole have been thinking about a lot of ways how we can engage students on multiple issues affecting both the country and the university specifically,” ASWU president Jeff DeBray said. “One way that we came up with was this town hall series.”
ASWU leadership hopes this series will not only foster dialogue between students, but also promote learning about the topics in question.
“One of our goals is to create space for education to happen,” ASWU executive vice president Dylan Reyes said. “The more that we learn about something, the more we appreciate it.”
DeBray agreed, summing up his hopes for the series as a learning and engagement experience, he said.
Some students are excited by the idea of town hall meetings. “I think with doing a town hall series, with getting groups of people who probably have different opinions…and being able to come together and see their faces and see each other’s positions as a person to a person and as a group of people to a group of people rather than some nameless, faceless liberal versus conservative, football player versus social justice warrior – I think these things are essential to the campus,” sophomore Daniel Robert said.
Robert’s statement echoes the executives’ hopes for the meetings.
“That’s the point, to just kind of see the other person as a human,” Reyes said, adding that asking questions is the best path towards understanding other viewpoints. “I understand that which I’m abrasive towards if I ask more questions.”
However, not all students are as keen on the notion, raising concerns as to whether or not such sessions could devolve into mere rhetorical fireworks.
“I think that’s a great idea, unless there’s people there who are just coming to pick an argument and not to learn,” sophomore Carly Bair said. “It would depend on the attitude of the people there I guess, but hopefully it would go well.”
DeBray hopes to prevent disorderly arguments as well.
“[There will be] some guidelines for dialogue, just to make sure that everyone is coming in engaging in a civil and respectful manner,” DeBray said.
Reyes sees a town hall format as a way to prevent such arguments from occurring in the first place, he said.
“It’s good to have a space in general to have dialogue on these situations…it kind of cuts out that need to argue in a passive way, or to argue in a way that’s belittling, or discouraging, or non-educational” Reyes said.
ASWU hasn’t announced the topics of any future events but is putting together a list for the rest of the year.
Students like Roberts are optimistic about the future of the series.
“Political things I would like to see, cultural things I would like to see, even theological things I would like to see because I think these are all discussions that we should have as citizens, as people really,” Roberts said.
Ultimately Reyes encourages all students to come.
“Every student has thoughts on those topics….We want students to come, whether or not they feel like they have anything to share they’ll still walk away with some sort of educational, informational experience,” Reyes said.
The town hall will be held Monday, Oct. 23 at 6:00 p.m. in the Hixon Union Building’s Multi Purpose Room.