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Student Government Association hosts open forum to promote conversation about posters

Nearly 100 students, faculty, and community members filled the Centrum on Tuesday evening, Nov. 7, to take part in an open forum regarding the posters stating, “It’s ok to be white,” that were hung around campus on Halloween night.

Student Government Association, in concert with President Craft and the Office of Diversity, hosted the event in order to promote civil conversation about the incident.

The forum began with an opening address from President Craft and SGA President Ahna Van Valkenberg, then moved to small-circle discussion. Groups of five or six were formed to discussion questions such as how they learned about the signs, their initial reactions, how the signs impacted them, and how campus should address such incidents. A large-group discussion took place afterward, in which attendees had the chance address the entire room.

The Concordian was asked not to take photos, record, or disclose any information that was shared by students and faculty participating in the forum. Interviews with attendees were conducted after the event.

Like many students who attended the forum, senior Corinne Burrell came with the primary goal of listening and learning.

“I both wanted to show up to be in solidarity and support for people who maybe needed it, but at the same time, I was curious to hear other people’s thoughts about the signs,” Burrell said.

Senior Ronnie Allen had a slightly different reason for attending.

“I wanted to hear what other people had to think about it, but secondly, I wanted to see how Concordia even dealt with an event like this,” he said.

Allen said that while he appreciated that the discussion was held, he hopes future events are marketed and advertised better.

“We have CEC events everywhere, SGA events everywhere, we have pretty much every event you can think of everywhere instead of the ones that might actually matter for students like me,” Allen explained. “Marketing was not at 100% on that one.”

With better advertising, Allen hopes that more people will be drawn to the events.

“I kind of looked around the circle, and everyone that I expected to be there was there,” Allen said, adding that this included SGA, the Office of Diversity, and affected minorities.

“We only had a few days to plan and publicize, so having close to 100 people attend was exciting,” Van Valkenberg explained. “SGA has never held events on diversity before. This is a learning curve, but we are adapting as we go.”

Burrell appreciated the college’s ability to quickly set up the open forum.

“Hats off to those three groups for pulling this together. I think that was an appropriate response to events,” she said.

However, both Burrell and Allen believe there should be a better call to action in future events.

“My hope is if we make this more regular, we can stop saying nothing is going to change tonight and start outlining a plan,” Burrell said.

Allen echoed her hope.

“Every talk has been is ‘we’re not going to solve it today’,” Allen said. “We can have as many forums as we want, but if people don’t have the intention to be better, that doesn’t help out the cause.”

Response forms were available for students to turn in with comments, questions, or suggestions after the large-group talk. SGA President  Ahna Van Valkenberg said 45 feedback forms were filled out, which SGA will take into consideration for future events.

“Right after the event the SGA executive team met with Mikayla Clements, the new Diversity Equity and Inclusion Commissioner, and read through them all. While most of the feedback indicated attendees were happy we were having the conversation, a lot of it also supplied ideas for future events and criticism,” she said. “Students and faculty called for more events with broader discussions, for classes and trainings to be dedicated to diversity, and for less neutrality.”

Van Valkenberg reiterated that this will be the first of many conversations about diversity on campus.

“We are excited to use the feedback we received for future events,” Van Valkenberg said. “We don’t have a date set up for the next one, but at least one will take place before the end of the semester.”


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