Conversation asks ‘What is normal?’

Meghan Bogardus

Definition changes with time and place

The struggle to define what is “normal” was the task of a diverse group of students and faculty at last night’s Campus Conversations in the Multicultural Center of the Student Center.

Campus Conversations, sponsored by Residence Services, the Center for Student Involvement and other campus departments and organizations, began in the 2007-2008 school year. Wednesday night marked the 10th conversation.

Laura De’Armond, a member of the Campus Conversations committee and a residence hall director, led the discussion by passing participant question forms, starting with the basic question: “What is normal to you?”

“Everybody’s different,” said Latoyka Priester, sophomore special education major. “How can you decide what’s normal for anyone else?”

The group agreed that defining normal is difficult because there is so much influence from society, popular culture and even family.

One response to normal that sparked controversy was describing “normal” in the form of a white, straight male.

“It strikes me that that is a description of a norm in certain places,” said Frank Robinson, the education coordinator for Residences Services.

Generally, the group agreed that normal has little to do with appearance and often differs from person to person and society to society, but also from society to individual.

“Most people do go with what society tells us is normal, but it’s not right,” Priester said.

Attendees also agreed normal can be relative to the physical environment a person grows up in.

“When you go into different neighborhoods and different ethnic structures, normal is different,” freshman biology major Allison Black said.

As normal differs for people, it was also agreed that normal is something that often changes with time as well.

“We keep growing, so normal might also be a fad at the time,” sophomore musical theatre major Nyla Watson said. “It’s not consistent.”

Though they had a difficult time determining what normal meant, the group agreed it is important to respect what another person views as normal. That was key to the discussion.

“We’re not trying to establish right or wrong today,” De’Armond said. “We’re trying to pull in different thoughts and experiences.”

Robinson said the idea behind the Campus Conversations series is to give students a place to express their ideas to other students as a way of broadening their “small and particular worlds.”

This year also marks the first year Campus Conversations has been offered as part of the Student Success Series, which First Year Experience students are required to participate in.

Robinson said Timothy Moore, associate dean of Undergraduate Affairs and Advising in the College of Arts and Sciences, and a professor in the Pan-African Studies department, was instrumental in making this part of the Student Success Series.

Campus Conversations discussions will be held again at 4 p.m. Oct. 1, 6 p.m. Oct. 26 and 5 p.m. Nov. 26 in the Multicultural Center. The discussion topics will be announced at a later date.

Contact student affairs reporter Meghan Bogardus at

[email protected].