Next week DePauw will be having its second Day of Dialogue, and with this event coming I can’t help but think about last year’s event. The intentions behind the day are wonderful; wanting to encourage conversations among different groups, promote understanding, address the issues on our campus involving racism, sexism, classism, etc. It was in the execution that the day fell apart for me.
The day started on a hopeful note, the gym very much full of people, though many tired and somewhat resentful of being there. Many looked at their phone screens and others talked to their friends. The talk on micro-aggressions was great, but followed by a sales pitch for a book rather than any lasting valuable insight. When it was time to break off into discussion groups, the day lost a substantial number of students and the day’s lack of detailed preparation came to light.
With no trained facilitators, the group of randomly mixed students, faculty, and staff awkwardly picked a “leader” and tried to discuss issues. In my group, many students felt uncomfortable sharing, and some were made to feel that they had to speak for their entire group or identity when speaking about their concerns. There was not any deep conversation, we barely even touched the surface issues of the problems. About a year later, that is the most I remember of the event. Feeling awkward and uncomfortable, and angry that more people weren’t there. The fact I don’t remember more says a lot about how much of an impact the day really had: there wasn’t anything really worth remembering.
I hope that this year will be different. I hope that not only will the event be better planned out and facilitated, but that people all over campus (not only those who already care about these issues) will come to the day open and with a real intention to listen and share. I hope that the Day of Dialogue is something that has a real motivation to address and improve our campus climate, and not just an action to check off, being proud of the simple day itself in order to seem like change is being made rather than genuinely reaching for it. That is the sad reality of the event and of many of the issues existing here at DePauw. It seems, at least, that the school puts an image of caring on rather than actually caring. I know there are many devoted and passionate people here who do truly care and want to make a difference. At this moment in time though, it seems like these cumulative measures equate to a whole lot of nothing and a continued reliance on the status-quo.
I am hopeful about this year, as more planning seems to have been done, but I am afraid to get my hopes too high. Once again the event isn’t mandatory, and though I know more professors, sports teams, and Greek houses are requiring students to attend, I am worried people still won’t show up and that those who do will still be disengaged. I think the trained facilitators will be a great help, but I know that one or two conversations is not going to be that much of a wake up call to some people. But at least its a start. I am happy that this is an event that will happen every year. I hope that it continues to grow in success, and continues to encourage dialogue among students. I hope that there will be a way for the school to receive feedback from those who attend about the successes and failures of this event to improve next year. But finally, I hope that DePauw will do something more than one day a year for these discussions. This is a great first step, but there is still a long road ahead. Let’s think of more we can do.