Civil discourse panel talks diversity, culture, collaboration

Carlyle Addy

“If you’re going to go into life with any assumption at all, assume people want to do better. Because they do,” said WKSU Digital Editor M.L. Schultze, striking a positive note on Saturday morning during a panel discussion on civil discourse.

The panel, a collaboration of different departments in the College of Communication and Information, was intentionally scheduled near other events in the college to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, including an Alumni Social Hour, the Poynter Media Ethics Workshop, and the Alumni and Friends Awards Ceremony.

CCI Dean Amy Reynolds said she hopes to see more collaborative events like the panel discussion in the future.

“We need to be more purposeful to engage our local community instead of just our university community,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds moderated the panel and passed the microphone to audience members who wanted to ask questions. She said that her initial questions were based on a conversation with assistant professor Stephanie Smith before the panel.

Smith was in attendance at the panel, and agreed with the general consensus of the panel that the best way to promote civil discourse is for people to become familiar with cultures that they are not a part of.

She said that although she’s fairly liberal, she listens to Sean Hannity – a popular conservative commentator – on her commute home from work.

“You have got to immerse yourself in people who don’t think like you,” Smith said.

Amanda Leu, Kent State’s academic diversity outreach coordinator, said that she has had trouble immersing herself in other cultures in the past.

“After the election, anyone who posted anything I didn’t like, I just deleted them,” Leu said.

She said that she wants to understand other viewpoints, but sometimes worries about her safety as a member of the LGBTQ community.

Schultze said that understanding different cultures and viewpoints is especially important for reporters.

“My job lets me be in a zillion different worlds and let me learn not to be too comfortable in one and not too uncomfortable in another,” Schultze said.

Panelist Rekha Sharma, an assistant professor in the School of Communication Studies, said that one noteworthy example of expression was the money that the Trump presidential campaign spent on red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps. The hats became a symbol for the Trump campaign, and became a cultural icon for Trump’s supporters.

Sharma also found the panel’s discussion on giving a voice to voiceless people.

“I’ll try to integrate that into my teaching and my research and my personal life,” she said.

The discussion was recorded and is available on the WKSU website.

Carlyle Addy is the student politics reporter. Contact him at [email protected]