A panel discussion entitled, “Reaching understanding: A civil exchange of perspectives,” took place Oct. 16 in Anderson Auditorium on the Buena Vista University campus.
The event – which was co-sponsored by the Office of the President – was open to the public and featured five panelists from BVU and the Storm Lake community.
The panel discussed issues of social injustice and racial inequality, locally and nationally, in response to concerns surrounding the act of kneeling during the national anthem on BVU’s campus on Sept. 30.
“Tonight’s forum is in response to the issues of racial inequality and social injustice that students challenged all of us to think about,” said Dr. Andrea Frantz, who moderated the discussion and is a professor of digital media at BVU. “These are international, national, state and, yes, local issues. And as an educator, I want to personally commend those BVU students who have honestly and forthrightly engaged on this vital issue.”
Davonte Johnson said, “I’m only human and waking up every day to stories of social injustice is wearing me down. In order to bring about change, both sides must come together and have open-minded conversations.” Johnson, a sophomore business major from Iowa City, is a member of the BVU football team and was one of several football players and cheerleaders who chose to kneel last month.
Specifically, the panel focused on police brutality, oppression, the power of language, and racial intolerance.
“The demographics have changed drastically over the past three decades in Storm Lake,” said Storm Lake Police Chief Mark Prosser. “It’s become increasingly important to build a philosophy that centers around learning about others’ cultures, creating relationships and building bridges. It’s hard to dislike someone you know, and the more we know and learn about each other, the better off we’ll be.”
The panel members also discussed the importance of creating a civil and purposeful discourse around these issues.
“We want to spread a message and for others to be open to dialogue about social change,” said Alyssa Parker, a sophomore criminology/criminal justice and psychology double major from Ankeny. “The more we talk about these issues, the more people will begin to understand our message and our intention.” Parker is a BVU cheerleader who also chose to kneel on Sept. 30.
Alyssa Donnelly, a junior strategic public relations major from Council Bluffs, added, “Sometimes the biggest change begins the moment you step outside your comfort zone. You can’t begin to empathize with what others have gone through until you take the time to get to know their backgrounds and perspectives.” Donnelly also knelt and is a member of the BVU cheerleading squad.
“This conversation is a sign we’re moving in the right direction,” said Dr. Merrin Guice, assistant professor of vocal music at BVU. “It is through civil dialogue that we can begin to truly understand, respect, and appreciate one another’s perspectives and experiences.”