Editorial: Respectful dialogue should be promoted on campus

UConn has a strong and diverse campus that supports respectful dialogue (Nicholas Hampton/The Daily Campus)

On a diverse campus like UConn, it is important to maintain peaceful dialogue about sensitive topics. Without good-natured communication between students, a university is more prone to conflict, thus compromising the safety of students and faculty. Allowing students to discuss controversial political topics with one other is beneficial to enhancing their college education, but such dialogue must be informed rather than ignorant conversation. It is the responsibility of the academic institution to enhance knowledgeable discussion and obstruct ignorance regarding controversial issues. Informed discussion of sensitive topics should be promoted and enforced on campus to ensure safety of all students and faculty.

The Committee on Civil Discourse and Dialogue at UConn has proposed a method of educating students and staff about discussing controversial topics. The head of the committee, Brendan Kane, said, “we (the committee) are really interested in having people get facilitator training to be able to moderate conversations over difficult subjects.” This is an example of the university advocating informed dialogue on campus, and is a major step taken by the committee to promote safe and peaceful discussion. To do so, Kane mentions that the committee proposed facilitators training to be able to moderate conversations on difficult subjects. Training that is underwent by every student and faculty member on campus provides a common ground for all members of the UConn community and enhances good-natured discussion.

Conducting a discussion about sensitive political topics does not simply consist of expressing views and presenting arguments, it mainly requires participants to listen to one another. Listening is the foundation of peaceful conversation. Ignorance typically arises when there is a lack of understanding of one another. Facilitator training will be useful if it educates students on how to listen to one another in a way that promotes a genuine understanding of all participants of a discussion. Avoiding ignorance should be the most important element of training because it is the main cause of conflict. Ignorance leads to frustration with those with opposing views, which easily escalates to anger and conflict.

Kane makes a very strong and accurate claim regarding controversial dialogue; he said that “if you’re going to educate citizens, we must have the ability to talk across differences without dehumanizing one another.” Conducting respectful discussions in the UConn community is essential to maintaining a safe and prosperous campus. By allowing students to discuss difficult topics in an informed manner, they gain different perspectives from one another and broaden their spectrum of knowledge.