A week ago, Bureau Chief and White House correspondent Lucian Wintrich shook the University of Connecticut community through his controversial speech “It’s OK to be White.” The university is still responding to the echoes of the incident.
On Tuesday, the Initiative on Campus Dialogue (ICD), a group organized as part of the project on Humility and Conviction in Public Life, hosted an event titled “Still Together: a Dialogue for Interconnectedness.”
About 50 individuals, including UConn administration, graduate and undergraduate students all participated in four activities facilitated by ICD members.
The evening began with a “silent interview.” Participants paired up with someone at their table that they did not know and answered a set of questions relating to their partner, all without conversing. Through sharing what each participant contrived, groups were able to discuss how stereotypes and putting people into “boxes” affects the UConn community.
“I learned not to assume what you know about people before you talk to them,” Allie Anagnostopoulos, fifth-semester allied health sciences major, said. “You have a preconceived idea of someone that is just completely wrong.”
The second activity involved reflecting on the images that the UConn website provides to represent the university. Through looking at the images, including those representing areas like research, campus life, academics, admissions, athletics and UConn Health, groups came to realize that there was a blatant lack of diversity.
“It seemed that they were not promoting diversity,” Mary Gallucci, adjunct professor of English, said. “I didn’t see anything too bad but they need to have a more diverse presentation. I’m not sure that just showing those images is actually the experience of UConn online.”
Lastly, facilitators presented UConn’s mission statement and opened a discussion on its effectiveness.
“The whole entire mission statement was very vague, and it was hard to get something out of it,” Anagnostopoulos said. “And that’s kind of a lesson, in a sense.”
Anagnostopoulos suggested that the university should attempt to have a more concise message that would carry a greater impact with students.
Participants agreed that the event presented useful and necessary dialogue, but Gallucci wishes the event included examples pertaining to the Nov. 29 Wintrich arrest.
“I actually thought it was going to have more conversation about last week’s incident with Lucian, and it would deal with the fact the university was unaware of the kinds of people that are now doing this college circuit,” Gallucci said. “They used free speech for a cover and promoting hate speech and insulting people, and it’s wrong”
Glenn Mitoma, an ICD and Human Rights Institute/Neag Assistant Professor, said the group is hoping to hold more events in the future to incorporate additional thought provoking topics and suggestions can be submitted to email@example.com.
Lillian Whittaker is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.