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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Difficult Dialogue will confront race relations

The theme for this years Aggie Agora lecture series will focus on topics such as race, class and gender.
Photo by Courtesy

The theme for this year’s Aggie Agora lecture series will focus on topics such as race, class and gender.

Continuing a new tradition of providing a safe space to discuss important issues, Aggie Agora will host an event on March 28 which focuses on race relations in the United States.
Aggie Agora is a program in the College of Liberal Arts that facilitates student discussion on current events and sensitive topics such as race relations and controversial public policy. On Wednesday, March 28, Aggie Agora will host their monthly workshop, Difficult Dialogues, in Bolton 213. This month’s discussion will be led by Jessica Gantt Shafer, member of the Department of Communication and Class of 2018.
Gantt said her role in the discussions are usually to create a comfortable environment where students can weigh in on different issues.
“We try to list arguments, counterarguments and opinions on various sides of the issue,” Gantt said. “The atmosphere is meant to be one of exploration. A past topic has included the role of the media and the press in a democratic society. We try to relate the dialogues to Aggie Agora visiting speakers and/or current events. This week the dialogue will include an exploration of various opinions on reinstating the federal assault weapons ban.”
Redeem Francis, political science freshman, said some of her favorite experiences with Aggie Agora were when the seminars focused on race relations, because it was very enlightening to witness people discuss their perspectives on race issues on and off campus.
“I think events like this open a respectful and very powerful forum that allows every party to express their feelings,” Francis said. “Problems such as race relations can’t be solved unless they are discussed with a mindset for change and I believe that every student should take the initiative to be a part of these important conversations through organizations such as this.”
Neal Wendele, public service and administration graduate student, said the whole experience makes him stop and look at the environment he lives in every day, as Aggie Agora successfully creates a chance for self-examination and understanding among his peers who may disagree with him.
“I enjoy the chance to talk with a wide collection of students and community members about controversial issues in civil, mediated settings,” Wendele said. “Getting to hear thoughts and perspectives of people from different disciplines and walks of life is eye-opening. The workshops really challenge you to think through your understanding of an issue and to consider why others may form a different opinion.”
In Gantt’s personal experience, she said she understands some people aren’t hardwired to enjoy discussing tense or convoluted topics, but she said she hopes students feel they had the opportunity to dive-in to the conversation and discover a new joy in these types of seminars.
“Usually, contentious topics are relegated to debates or arguments,” Gantt said. “This means ‘hot’ topics are often ignored, misunderstood, or oversimplified. I want students — and all of us — to find ways we can talk about ‘hot’ topics without feeling intimidated, defensive or just exhausted. My hope is that when we as citizens engage in the public conversation we can offer nuanced understandings and opinions about complex topics, and I think dialogue can help us get there.”

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