Last Friday, Apr. 20, was the Center for Ethics’ (CFE) first student run program this year. Over the course of the day, various discussions took place on campus regarding the topic “Troubling Truth.”
“In past years,” as Dr. Finkelstein, Co-Center for Ethics Organizer, explained “students in the Dana program have had an end of year event tied to the CFE programming and we wanted to create space for all interested students to participate in reflection in conversation.”
Dr. Finkelstein continued “This particular student event came about because Lora Taub-Pervizpour and I have had the wonderful luck of working with Rachel Liberty, our social media coordinator for CFE. In discussion with her, the three of us decided that it would be beneficial for students to have a space to organize and discuss how the CFE program, ‘Troubling Truth,’ came together throughout the year. Rachel took the lead from there and put together the April 20 program.”
Rachel Liberty ‘18 was the primary student organizer for the day and worked with Taub and Finkelstein to “discuss student opinions, needs and reactions to the events programmed by the Center for Ethics.”
Liberty continued, “We noted that although there is some time for Q & A after the event, there are often more questions than time allows for. Furthermore, unless you have a professor who discusses the talk in class, there is not a lot of time for students to engage with the content of the talk. “
Simply, there was a recognition that Muhlenberg’s campus lacked a space for appropriate reflection for students and other community members.
“Conversations about the events are often held in friend groups, and often do not transcend the boundaries of these groups. We thought a student-led event where students and faculty could come together to think about these issues would be a beneficial way to end the semester” said Liberty.
“It was originally just a common hour event but I decided to add the morning workshops to add more depth to some of the topics I felt were on students’ minds.”
Finkelstein agreed, “having a student-run series of workshops and discussions as a culminating event for CFE’s program felt critical – while the year-long program was collaborative, interdisciplinary and linked to 20 different courses throughout the academic year.”
“While the previous events this year brought new ideas and conversations to our campus, the event on April 20 allowed students to both make connections across multiple events and explore the questions still lingering from the guests we hosted this year. Rachel, Lora and I felt like it was crucial to end the year with this space for student engagement, discussion and reflection.”
On Friday morning there were three student-led workshops: “The Costs of Comedy: Who can Afford Trump?” which examined what satire really means and who it is excusable to. The second workshop “Deconstructing Dialogue: New Ways of Conversing with Israel/Palestine Discourse” unpacked the contentious reactions to Sae’ed Atshan’s talk on growing up in Palestine and examined the language we use to have conversations and asked participants to self-reflect on when they feel respected and disrespected. The third and final morning workshop was “Examining the Opioid Crisis” which unpacked the very term “opioid crisis” and examined the pharmaceutical industries role in the issue.
At the end of the day Liberty ran a common hour discussion, which “reflected on the Troubling Truth series as a whole” where they “unpacked how Muhlenberg grapples with complex dialogues.”
Liberty says that “she did not have a lot of expectations” for the event as it was “the first of event of this nature.” That said, she did have “goals for engaging students in a meaningful way with the content of our talks this year and I do believe that was accomplished.”
“I think what’s unique about it is that it gives students the chance to talk about what they want to reflect on about the talk, rather than what their professor might pick out as important. I think it gives students more power in the discussion. I really appreciated that faculty participants contributed to the discussions without trying to dominate them, for the most part. I think this event brought together students across campus who might not have ever had class together or talked to each other and gave space for communal reflection.”
Finally, Liberty says she hopes that “after I graduate the center continues to build and expand student run events.”
“I think student engagement is extremely valuable,” said Liberty, “and there is certainly plenty of room for growth in this area.”