Andrews University Students Celebrate MLK’s Legacy of Open Conversation
On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Andrews University hosted a special Martin Luther King, Jr. Forum in the Howard Performing Arts Center. The guest speaker was Danny E. Sledge, Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager at Lakeland Health in St. Joseph, MI who presented on “Civility in the Age of Trump.”
Mr. Sledge stressed the importance of talking with people in a civil manner. Everyone has a different story so it is common to have differing views with another person. When speaking about matters such as politics, there will be many disagreements. Sledge urged the students to avoid unproductive reactions to these disagreements, like ceasing talking all together or being passive aggressive.
Sylvia Romilus (senior, wellness), who attended the forum, said she appreciated Sledge’s choice of format for the event.
“The only way to get to know someone else's viewpoint is to listen to what the other person is saying and be confident about what you have to say. There has to be a mutual understanding of ‘agreeing to disagree’ so that each person can learn something about the other and move forward to continue to engage in educational dialogue.”
After Mr. Sledge’s presentation, there was a panel discussion. The panel consisted of Sledge and four students: Jessica Yoong (junior, business administration, pre-medicine), Demetri Kirchberg (senior, English, psychology, pre-law), Jannel Monroe (senior, theology) and Amante Gonzalez (first year, Clinical Mental Health Counseling). Sledge asked them questions and each person had the chance to answer.
One of the questions the panel was asked was, “How has social media affected civility?” Lyshll Prudente (freshman, music, pre-physical therapy) said, “Social media lessens people's accountability because they're not as inclined to care about people's feelings since they don't know them and don't interact with them face to face. I agreed with the panel about how much communication is lost when you are just posting something and other people read it because everyone can interpret what they read differently which can start problems.”
Darius Bridges (freshman, architecture) said, “Social media makes people think they can do and say whatever they want whenever they want. People aren't bold, you barely hear blatant racist comments or negative comments at all like how they are on social media. You don't have to look the person in the face or talk to them; you just show how you feel then react accordingly, there's no repercussion or consequences and that's a problem.”
In the panel discussion, it was mentioned that people convince themselves that they’re correct no matter what. This is never productive because it leads people to block out other people’s opinions. The panel and Sledge emphasized that conversations should begin with the possibility that your own opinion could be flawed, as this promotes further conversation.
It was also indicated that the conversation may not always end in agreement but people should disagree respectfully.
Romilus brought up the point that the panel discussion lacked opposing views. Most, if not all, of the panelists agreed. “I feel like they should've had some panelists that had a different perspective on how social media has had an effect on the way we communicate or a view in how social media has enhanced communication, just so there could be an example of how to properly communicate with people we don't agree with.”
For Noreena Ogidan (junior, business administration) the assembly “benefited our student body because it reminded all of us how to listen to each other and glean from each others' experiences, which is invaluable to a school campus as diverse as ours.”