Students talk about self-censorship in class and role of Greek life at Penn Paideia virtual event
About 50 students from Penn and local universities gathered via Zoom on Tuesday evening to participate in a civil dialogue on the contentious issues young people debate today, from Greek life to disinformation.
The event, one of the recurring âCan We Talk? The Civil Dialogue for Troubled Times conversations, hosted by Penn’s SNF Paideia program, fostered student discussions on topics such as the role of Greek life on college campuses, mass incarceration in the United States, the self-censorship in classrooms and whether America is truly a meritocracy. These discussions are part of the Gamba Family Red and Blue Exchange, an initiative of the Paideia program designed to promote the expression of divergent ideas on the issues facing modern society.
Participants in the event came from a variety of universities, including Drexel University, Widener University, Marquette University, George Mason University and the University of Delaware.
Cecelia Vieira, a college senior at Penn who attended the event, said she was more interested in other attendees’ beliefs about classroom self-censorship, which was one of the assigned talking points.
âWhile I have had a very good experience at Penn in terms of sharing my unvarnished thoughts and opinions, I feel like the people in my classes tend to moderate themselves to avoid sounding too radical – and it’s coming from people on all sides of the ideological spectrum, âVieira, a former editor, told the Daily Pennsylvanian.
While Vieira said she was happy to have attended the event, she said discussions like this can be self-selective with the types of students who choose to attend and engage. in those conversations, which she says can hinder the effectiveness of the overall change in campus culture.
âThe people who came were clearly people who were already comfortable expressing their opinions and saying what they thought. It was really a very interesting experience, but I didn’t feel that you really needed to teach anyone there to engage in civil dialogue, which was the stated purpose of the event â said Vieira. âSo at the end of the day, I don’t know what impact these volunteer events can really have on campus culture. ”
Discussions in this series of events are conducted according to guidelines designed to promote a sense of mutual respect and recognition of the diversity of viewpoints present in the conversations. Students are encouraged to listen to other points of view, accept disagreements, and avoid personal attacks or insults.
Delaney Duricek, a junior at Widener University who participated in the dialogue, said she really enjoyed listening to students’ feelings on the topics, especially regarding the role of Greek life on college campuses, in light of the recent fraternity-related scandals at Penn and the University of Delaware.
Last month, a Penn sophomore was seriously injured after he was allegedly attacked by a brother from the Psi Upsilon fraternity during a party in their chapter house, prompting a major backlash from students and protests over the campus requiring action from the university. The university told the Daily Pennsylvanian it was investigating the incident.
âI was under the impression that there was a level of privilege among the types of people from these institutions who join these [Greek life] organizations, which people weren’t quite ready to talk about yet [at the event,]âSaid Duricek. âThey are usually straight white men with trust funds. When I think of Greek life, that’s what I think of.
The conversation helped reinforce Duricek’s belief that universities have a role to play in calling for the culture of Greek life that promotes recurrence of assaults on campus.
âI’m thinking specifically of Penn and Delaware, the schools haven’t addressed the underlying causes of the assault. A lot of assaults probably go unrecorded every year, âsaid Duricek. “We are not doing enough to speak out against the culture that promotes these assaults.”
In 2019, the Association of American Universities’ Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct found that just over one in four female Penn undergraduates and 21.5% of students Transgender, non-binary and genderqueer undergraduates reported having unwanted sexual contact. Two years before the publication of that survey, only five of 27 fraternities had completed the requirement to train new members in sexual assault prevention, Kathleen Givan, former president of Penn Wellness Advocacy and Penn graduate, told DP.
Chris Satullo and Harris Sokoloff, who co-teach the EDUC 244 Civil Dialogue Seminar: Civic Engagement in a Divided Nation, hosted the event together.
Satullo said he believes the purpose of the event – to promote a diversity of viewpoints – is enhanced by the inclusion of students from various campuses.
âWe hope to give people tips they can use all the time – in the classroom, online, at home with family, in the workplace – so they can take what they learn out into the world. and share this civic dialogue. skills and information they learn, with others, and promote civic discourse more broadly, âSatullo said.
Satullo said he was proud to announce that Tuesday’s event featured the most student moderators in the series’ history, a trend he hopes to continue with increased student involvement and leadership. in the future.
Echoing Satullo, College Junior Sydney Nixon, a Paideia member who helped moderate the event, said events like this help instill conflict resolution and active listening skills in students , which can be useful whatever career they hope to pursue.
âThere is a huge perception that dialogues like these are only beneficial for people who are in the humanities or political science,â Nixon said. âIn many areas conflict is inevitable, and these dialogues help to know how to manage it in a collaborative sense.
The next “Can we talk?” The discussion will take place on November 30th. Students can register for the event here.