Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Bridging The Divide: Event brings students’ diverse political perspectives together

Elijah Plonsky / Advance-Titan

Bridging The Divide’s hosted it’s final event for the semester Monday, bringing students together to engage in discussions on social justice, the death penalty and climate action.

The events are hosted by Brooke Mullen and Devin Heinz, campus representatives for the event series, and sponsored by the Tommy G. Thompson Center of Public Leadership and the Center for Civic and Community Engagement.

The event series promotes civil engagement by inviting students with different ideological perspectives to have small group conversations about national, state and local issues.

Heinz said the best part about hosting Bridging The Divide is creating an inclusive space for everyone to feel represented.

“Brooke and I come from different political backgrounds, which is something that we have made the focal point behind how we pick which topics to discuss. I am left of center and Brooke tends to hold more conservative views.” Heinz said.

“Our differing views and perspectives on issues makes it possible for us to bring out all sides of a certain issue,” Mullen said.

While the last Bridging the Divide event was about the death penalty and climate change, on Thursday, April 4th, it was surrounding a conversation about affordable housing in Oshkosh and the statewide healthcare shortage.

Before they begin to facilitate a discussion around the issues they preface students at the event by saying no one should try and be a winner.

“We establish the purpose of this event isn’t to persuade or make your viewpoint the winner; it’s to get students to respect and embrace the diversity of perspectives amongst their peers,” Heinz said.

“We think it’s important to highlight everyone’s perspectives because we want all students to feel recognized and heard,” Mullen said. “If we ignore a certain perspective, then we are doing the opposite of what Bridging the Divide is meant to achieve.”

Both Mullen and Heinz said the events are meant to amplify everyone’s opinions about modern day issues, not just those of a certain group or individual.

“If a student’s viewpoint is relevant to a topic, then they should feel free to say it so long as it isn’t an attack directed toward someone’s identity” Heinz said.

Mullins said being inclusive of everyone means recognizing, and respecting everyone’s unique life experiences.

“Many students aren’t comfortable sharing their perspectives because of the fear they might be socially ostracized.” Mullen said, “By bringing everyone’s perspective, we hope to recognize the experiences that led to the formation of different beliefs,”

Heinz said these conversations are especially important for students in Oshkosh and Winnebago County because it is a very purple area, rather than being blue or red.

“Oshkosh is located in the heart of Winnebago County which voted 50.8% Trump and 46.8% Biden in 2020.” Heinz said, “Winnebago County’s political story is a swing county within a swing state.”

“The Oshkosh Common Council election last year was decided by 26 votes,” Heinz said.

Heinz and Mullen do their part to keep the conversation rolling, and said events like Bridging The Divide are because Oshkosh and the surrounding county are diverse political areas.

”The Winnebago County Board Supervisor of District 16 represents students who live in the dorms and surrounding properties,’ Heinz said, “Not only was this race by only 16 votes, only 209 people voted when over 2,000 people could have.”

Mullen said, “Oshkosh has a massive impact and not enough students are taking advantage of it.”

Heinz and Mullen both facilitate a great opportunity for all students to have their voices heard on important topics in their communities.

“We facilitate these discussions with an emphasis on finding ways to get students to think about the issue and hopefully have their views challenged,” Heinz said.

Mullen and Heinz led these events under advisement by Mike Lueder. Students can find future updates on Bridging the Divide in student announcements, and in emails from the Center for Civic And Community Engagement.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated.


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