Talk Better Together event addresses hate on campus

Zack Dion, News Writer

UW Oshkosh held Talk Better Together last Thursday, an event providing a space for students to discuss ways to unite against hate.

Talk Better Together was intended to follow up April’s Moving Past Hate event where a former white supremacist and a witness to a hate crime shared their story of building a friendship with forgiveness.

The original date of Talk Better Together was canceled due to weather, and with recent hateful acts taking place on campus, the event focused on building the community rather than discussing the previous event.

UWO director of campus ministry and co-host of Talk Better Together Katie Grooms said meeting hate with hate is not going to change anything.

“We talked some about the events on campus with some of the images from one of the students and how the actions by the student were hateful actions, but the response to that student was also hateful to some degree,” Grooms said.

The event provided a sacred space, a place for mutual respect, where students could have in-depth discussions about themselves and their community to better understand each other.

Grooms said the vibe of the room was very nervous at first, but later the students began to loosen up.

“I would say it was very nervous at the beginning, but I think it was very anticipatory, everyone was wondering ‘What’s this actually going to be, what am I going to have to talk about,’” Grooms said. “By the end, it was a really relaxed atmosphere.”

To begin the event, students were asked to agree to a community conduct agreement, encouraging them to practice being humble, be present in the moment, speak truthfully, know when to step up or step back, assume good intentions and be respectful of others.

The students were then asked to form a concentric circle dialogue, a circle with two rows of people who would engage in conversation with one another.

After this, the students introduced themselves with an icebreaker conversation stating their name, their role at UWO, favorite road trip snack and favorite thing to do in their free time.

Once introduced, the discussion of community began with the question: “What does ‘community’ mean to you?” This question was followed up by others asking the students to describe their community and how differences can make building a community difficult.

The last question students were asked to discuss before switching partners was: “What can we do to create an inclusive community for people of all worldviews?”

Co-host of the event Jennifer Considine said there is debate about doing this again and making it a regular thing — where a safe space is provided for people to have conversation with one another.

“We want to continue to talk about how we can create inclusive community in a space where we bring together students and staff and instructors outside of the classroom,” Considine said.

The event was sponsored by the Interfaith Dialogue and Education Alliance (IDEA) and the United Methodist Campus Ministry.