The Community Planning Group (CPG) met on April 24 to discuss the notes they collected from the 20 small groups hosted on April 3. Participants in these small groups were asked to keep the conversations confidential.
The CPG — which was convened by President Sean Decatur after the cancellation of the play The Good Samaritan — organized the small groups and brought together students, administrators and faculty members from across campus to discuss diversity, inclusion, freedom of expression and community. The appointed scribe in each group was responsible for taking notes of key points from the discussions and forwarding them to the CPG.
“We had a meeting … to discuss what themes emerged based on the notes that we received from those groups,” Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 said. “We are in the process of distilling those themes and then coming up with a short set of recommendations to President Decatur for implementation this coming year.”
“From what I can tell, there are some consistent threads among them,” Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ted Mason said. “People were happy to have this opportunity, to have these conversations, and people understood that this was just a start … no one imagines it will get solved quickly.”
“What we have heard since those groups met is that there is a genuine desire to create more opportunities like those for that type of small group exchange,” Bonham added.
The CPG designed the small groups to help participants become better listeners. “One of the things that the Community Planning committee has talked about a lot is the way in which it would help us if we all became better listeners rather than listening to talk, listen to listen,” Mason said.
Bonham expressed a similar view. “I think that the small groups were a really critical and important first step in enhancing our capacity for listening to one another and engaging in healthy dialogue,” she said.
Juniper Cruz ’19, who participated in one of the small groups, found the discussions to be productive, but wished they were longer.
“I wish they were longer. 50 minutes or so is not a great amount of time to discuss something as big as changes that we want to see in college.” Cruz also suggested having the same groups meet regularly.
The CPG does not plan on organizing any more events this year given the semester is almost over, but the members hope to propose recommendations to Decatur soon.
Bonham anticipates that the president will share these recomendations with the rest of the campus by the end of this year.
The small groups are just a start to help develop ways in which free expression does not hinder inclusion, according to Bonham. “While I do not know whether we will actually ever be able to ever truly solve the problem, I think we are moving in the right direction,” she said.