Pilot of a racial injustice deliberation sparks dialogue amongst students

Written by Ariel Hochman and Emily Squires | |

Forty students openly discussed solutions to racism on a systematic, institutional, and individual level at SUNY Broome’s Racial Injustice Deliberation last evening. The deliberation was written and planned by Professor Scott Corley and Dr. Jesse Boring since this summer, basing the deliberation on a framework developed by the Kettering Foundation and a community-based dialogue model developed by the National Issues Forums Institute. Event host and professor Carla Michalak, explained that Suny Broome is piloting the program for NIFI, “we want to run this a few more times…we are hoping they(NIFI) will adopt it since Broome was the first college to write and pilot it.”

The deliberation started with a brief presentation explaining the difference between debates and deliberations, as well as discussion guidelines to maintain a respectful and open atmosphere among students. “We tackle issues that are not easy to solve…” spoke Michalak, “we deliberate on how we can find a common ground on a particular issue. We all approach it with our values that we bring to the table- our perspectives.”

Tables of nine students were given a placemat that contained a condensed structural framework of three possible solutions to racial injustice on different levels to discuss.Option one on the placemat presented actions to take on an institutional/structural level, option two on an educational/training level, and option three on an individual level. Each option had a list of possible actions to take for racial injustice matters, a set of potential negative trade offs, and alternative perspectives to consider. The participating students had fifteen minutes to collaboratively discuss the presented actions and their possible success. Each group moderator collected notes to be presented at the end of the deliberation when a student from each table shared final collective thoughts.

 A student named Sydney Dorcely, who had participated in the event to receive extra credit however had a keen interest in the topic of discussion. Dorcely recommends students of all races to come to any future events since it has created an open dialogue between students on a serious topic. “Initially coming to Suny Broome I had some weird experiences where I was unsure if I would be accepted here as a black student. But after this meeting, I’ve realized that one small incident does not reflect the whole body of students and staff. Suny Broome may not seem diverse, but it absolutely is, if not in skin color, in personalities and knowledge.” 

Ariel Hochman and Emily Squires, both students and reporters for the newspaper, had not only gone to report on the event, but to participate in the student discussion. Hochman said, “Everybody there probably walked out that door, still reflecting on what they heard and said during those 2 hours.” And although almost every student in attendance had initially gone to receive extra credit from courses, the event sparked such fundamentally valuable conversations among peers that it is safe to say students would return for future deliberations. Michalak estimates more deliberations to be held in the spring, for this topic as well as others. Some topics that may be featured in the future are elections and mass shootings.

Hochman, Dorcely, Squires, and several unnamed students remarked their want for the event to have been longer. After students settled in, the deliberation started ten minutes later than scheduled and ran over the original end point. However, Squires believes that the students who had attended the event would have participated longer had the event been planned for a lengthier discussion.

Professor Carla Michalak believes that events such as this one are important for our campus and community. The table she moderated during the deliberation spoke on their experiences with discrimination on campus. She reiterates that issues such as racial injustice are a national concern, with recent events. Michalak said,“We need to step it up and work locally so hopefully it can have that ripple effect and start improving things first on campus then community-wise and maybe state and nationally… Gotta start somewhere.”

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