What is the culture of college campuses? At fishbowl last Monday night, students along with Presbyterian College President Dr. Bob Staton discussed this topic. Staton opened the discussion by agreeing that freedom of speech was encouraged on college campuses because of social media and the fact that many conversations can occur without having face-to-face interaction, which can be the root of the problem. Staton also argued that it is important to respect different opinions of others and learn to see things from someone else’s perspective.
Along with Staton, other students of PC chimed in with their thoughts. The subject of anonymity was a hot topic during the discussion. Several students felt as if people tend to be more comfortable hiding behind a screen than speaking face to face. However, another student felt that anonymity (outside of hate speech) could be healthy and conducive to change. Another topic that was brought up in the conversation was respect. Many students agreed that other students around campus lack basic respect, though sometimes unintentional, due to a lack of understanding on the topic. With the revelation of this, it was decided that there need to be more programs that address the issues of diversity.
The diversity council at PC attempts to address individual issues that arise. The program was put into effect in the Fall of 2015 and is just getting started to make changes in life and ideals on campus. In President Staton’s diversity council platform, he seemed to echo the same sentiments. He emphasized the need for a certain level of respect between people who are different than one another. Also, he talked about the need for education centered around diversity. He wants to attempt to develop something that would encourage education on different topics. Most importantly, President Staton wishes to use these events as a teaching moment in order to help students and faculty alike learn and grow from these issues.
After giving an introduction to his speech, President Staton opened the floor to the other people in the room. One of the professors who came spoke on the issue of diversity as a recurring problem. He offered, instead, the idea of fixing the problem rather than placing a Band-Aid on the problem. Many of the students proposed the idea of implementing programs for incoming freshman and incoming students to help train them in appropriate diversity training. As many people pointed at the forum pointed out, it takes transformational education to get a systemic change that will be effective for many years to come. It is important to be intentional about the programs that are created in order to help bring about a change at PC.
A problem the continued to arise as the conversation went on was not the lack of programs, but a lack of funding for the programs. Many professors were very open to the idea of new programs and new scenarios, but everyone’s concerns were the same. Where is the funding going to come from? However, one of the professors in the conversations offered a solution. This particular professor indicated the need for programs in our own backyard. There is a need for these conversations to be had in the city of Clinton and in Laurens County.
By the end of the conversation, it was clear that something needed to be done in order to help address and fix the problem. The group consensus seemed to be requiring programs in order to bring awareness to the problems that different groups face. Some students may not realize the implications of their words, but with the proper education and training, students and faculty alike could learn how to effectively communicate with their peers.