Payton Clark, News Editor
Following Dr. David Whitlock’s convocation address about racial reconciliation last month, students are getting the chance to share their thoughts and begin a plan of action.
“Let’s Talk” will take place Oct. 12 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in GC 218. SGA, with the help of the Black Student Association, United Students of Color, faculty and administration will give students the opportunity to talk in small groups and town-hall meeting style about current cultural issues.
According to student body president Hunter Doucette, the upcoming “Let’s Talk” event was inspired by the convocation message and a need for action on campus .
“Dr. Jones, Dr. Emerson, and Professor Donnelly approached me as well as Geneva Harper, President of BSA, to get involved in the project, and to promote collaboration/dialogue between students and faculty,” Doucette said. “Convocation resonated with students and they desired action to follow.”
According to Doucette, SGA hopes to continue “Let’s Talk” and discuss more topics, but the issue of race relations is the first priority.
“I think starting there [race relations] is crucial, because more than anything, it is an issue of morality,” Doucette said. “Or sometimes, and I think in a lot of cases for OBU students, it is the utter ignorance of the inequalities, particularly systematically, that have plagued our nation since its beginning.”
Faculty and student leadership hope that “Let’s Talk” will allow the OBU community to reach all students.
“Let’s Talk is only the beginning of what will hopefully be a significant change on campus,” Doucette said. “That is a greater sense of community, which is extended to every student and not only those who feel comfortable with getting involved right away.”
The ability to have a voice and feel welcome on campus is something Doucette suggests will get students more involved.
“We need to recognize that there is something, perhaps systematic, that discourages students from getting involved,” Doucette said. “Whether it be because they do not feel welcome on campus, or because they do not believe their voices will be heard if they do speak out.”
Many different student leadership organizations, faculty and administration are involved in “Let’s Talk”, with faculty providing the safe space and context for student led conversation.
“It is an SGA sponsored event, but we are relying heavily on collaboration from the professors mentioned above, as well as students involved in USOC and BSA,” Doucette said. “It truly is an effort by the entire university, endorsed by Dr. Whitlock, and in my opinion, gets us closer to living out the OBU mission statement.”
Changes to the campus life schedule will be made that evening to allow all students to attend the event.
“Also, David Gardner, Director of Intramurals, rescheduled games that night so that students can attend,” Doucette said. “We hope similar efforts will be made by all organizations or groups on campus to encourage as many students to attend as possible.”
“Let’s Talk” allows students to learn about each other and help inform efforts of support and action.
“The event will equip students to be advocates for what is true because they will have a better grasp of other’s experiences, whether they be positive or negative, and to be able to engage with those with different backgrounds,” Doucette said.
Listening, or not, is an issue assistant professor of criminal justice Paul Donnelly explains is very divisive in our society.
“Lots of times people speak and merely wait to speak again, they don’t really listen to what people have to say,” Donnelly said. “One of the reasons our country is so divided is because we aren’t listening to one another, or accepting people’s opinions as valid.”
Doucette agrees that listening is an important aspect of “Let’s Talk”, and discussion in general.
“Students should come to the event ready to listen first, rather than come with a firm opinion, because they will be surprised to hear what other students have to say,” Doucette said. “Students should also be honest with each other. These conversations are difficult to have, they will be emotional, but they are necessary if we want to move forward.”
Due to the weight of the subject, Donnelly says students should prayerfully attend with friends who will support them.
“People should prepare themselves through prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to help them listen to things that might be hard to here,” Donnelly said. “Invite friends, because some people may be anxious or afraid, but if we’re together in this there is no reason to be afraid.”
Many leaders on campus have been considering ways to create discussion and action on these issues.
“Some of us faculty and students have been praying that God would reveal a way where we can move beyond words and into deeds,” Donnelly said. “How can we reflect God’s love for each of us in our community here?”
The hope is that “Let’s Talk” and future discussions will become a regular and important part of life at OBU.
“I’d like to see this become something that is part of the DNA of the OBU community,” Donnelly said. “We want for people to get out of their comfort zone and wrestle with tough issues, because when you leave OBU you will be confronted with those tough issues.”
Donnelly says that Christians shouldn’t wait on events like Charlottesville to take action.
“We say our thoughts and prayers are with them, but we are called to do more than that, we’re called to a deeds ministry as well,” Donnelly said. “I think the world is ready to see us put our faith in action.”
Scripture says that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
“We need to tell students how to do that, and part of that Is to learn to listen and understand and begin to empathize with other people’s struggles, and see if we can be a positive witness in the lives of everyone we interact with,” Donnelly said. “We should understand that sometimes even when we don’t intend to make it hard on our fellow students, sometime we just don’t know any better.”
Donnelly says that Christians should be known for accepting all people.
“The world is identifying us often by what we’re against- I want to Christians to be identified by what we’re for,” Donnelly said. “What I want to be identified by specifically is other people created in God’s image, regardless of their shade, how much money they have or whether they agree with me or not. The students that I’ve met here want the same thing, so our responsibility is to show them how that can be applied in our own lives.”
According to Donnelly, “Let’s Talk is the first step in a journey rather than a destination.
“We aren’t going to solve race relations here at OBU or anywhere else, but we’re going to begin to find it less difficult to talk about problems and move to solutions,” Donnelly said. “What can we do on campus to make everyone feel like they’re equally validated and worthwhile, regardless of who or what they are, because that’s how God looks at us.”