Discussion topics selected by voiced student opinions
April 18, 2019
Honest conversation isn’t always easy—especially in an uneasy world, where politics are complex and certain viewpoints are privileged over others.
At Santa Clara, the Office for Multicultural Learning (OML) opens up a space for students to have these hard conversations in a series known as “Difficult Dialogues.”
Students are welcome to attend each event to explore controversial or socially impactful topics in dialogue with other members of the university community through discussion.
The April 11 Difficult Dialogue was dedicated to hearing what people on campus want to discuss in future events.
Themed “It’s Your Turn,” OML provided an open room stocked with snacks for those at Santa Clara to speak their minds about the topics and issues they find vital.
Joanna Thompson, director of OML, sent an email before the event.
She prefaced that OML, in striving to listen to marginalized voices at Santa Clara, wanted to know what people are thinking and what students would like from the series.
“Are there specific topics you’d like to discuss?” Thompson said in the email to the campus community. “Would you like the format of Difficult Dialogues to change? Do you need to just vent about some stuff that is on your heart and mind?”
OML student assistant Parisa Ayoubi spoke of OML’s goal in hosting this specific event in the series to begin the quarter.
“One of our biggest roles in OML is to hear what people want to see us represent, because a lot of smaller groups on campus might be fighting for certain issues, but they don’t necessarily have the platform and reach that we do,” she said.
The first Difficult Dialogue of the quarter was a small gathering, but big topics arose.
A topic that came up included the effectiveness of the #BroncoPosi movement of last quarter, which some felt misguidedly represented single social identities without consideration of intersectionality.
It was suggested that placing people into “spokesperson” roles for single identities is problematic.
Another hot-button topic on the table: last quarter’s approval of the Registered Student Organization Students Supporting Israel (SSI), which is currently facing issues in the Associated Student Government (ASG).
After being further informed on the background of the SSI movement, some students tried to prompt a revote regarding SSI’s chartering as a Registered Student Organization.
But the ASG bylaws did not lend itself to this type of referendum.
The group at Difficult Dialogues questioned the possible problems seen in ASG voting, and expressed hope that representatives would vote responsibly—after being thoroughly informed on the issues.
Senior Sydney Thompson put forth two things she’d like to discuss in Difficult Dialogues: the role of the university president and student mobilization.
Thompson sees a need for talking about expectations for the Santa Clara president, as well as greater transparency surrounding the power structures that exist at the institution.
On the topic of mobilization, Thompson also notes a lack of movement on behalf of the student body, saying that students “talk big in small spaces.”
Student protest doesn’t seem to be widely practiced at Santa Clara, which this Difficult Dialogue group attributed to possible connection with privilege at the institution.
The treatment of Benson workers was brought up in relation to student protest—a movement beginning last quarter that seeks to better the work conditions of those working in Santa Clara’s Bon-Appétit-run dining services.
While receiving much attention on campus, some students in the room felt it has lost traction, questioning why protests seem to work “more” at other schools.
The hunger strikes and significant demonstrations at San Francisco State University, which ultimately led to the establishment of its College of Ethnic Studies, were mentioned.
OML certainly seems to be seeking the best ways they can both listen to and uplift marginalized voices on campus, kicking off the quarter with an open mic.
“My vision is whatever the people’s vision is,” Ayoubi said of her hope for the Difficult Dialogue series.
Contact Erika Rasmussen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.