Dialogue leaves audience member unsatisfied; leaders learn from emotional event


The Diversity Dialogue held Wednesday in Altgeld had a panel of speakers, all from the Black Student Union and Tau Kappa Epsilon. Discussed was the racial incident that happened outside of the TKE house, ways to come together and learn and all concerns the audience had.

By Ian Tancun

DeKALB — Students engaged in frank, and at times emotionally charged, conversations about racism, discrimination and intolerance during the Diversity Dialogue: Reimagined event Wednesday in Altgeld Auditorium.

The event was co-hosted by members of black student leadership and Tau Kappa Epsilon.

More than 200 people attended the event that was organized as a result of a video posted to social media April 8 in which a man was filmed using racial slurs outside of the TKE house. While previous diversity dialogue events have been facilitated and led by administrators, Wednesday’s event was led by students.

“A lot of emotions came out of a lot of people tonight; I think we expected that,” said TKE President Matt Sheets. “Obviously, we didn’t solve the world’s problems today. I think this is a pretty good first step in hopefully a long line of events to come. I think this is something that needed to be done.”

During the event, attendees were broken up into groups to engage in a variety of exercises intended to spark conversations about diversity and evoke discussions about any concerns or differences from the members seated at each table.

This was followed by a six-person panel that included three members of TKE — Sheets, new member educator Eric Paparigian and alumni relations coordinator Justin Lucero — and three members of black student leadership — Kendra Wilkinson, director of academics and education for the Black Student Union; black student leader Shada Cook and Darius Parker, director of civil disobedience for the Black Student Union — discussing the April 8 Snapchat incident and their reactions to it.

During the panel discussion, Wilkinson addressed concerns students had about what was being done in the aftermath of the video. She said black student leadership has been meeting multiple times per week with TKE members to discuss the issue, as both sides knew the incident was not something they could let go. They knew action needed to be taken, which is why the diversity event was created.

Following the panel discussion, the floor was opened to questions from the audience in a town hall-style format. While the event was moderated by Molly Swick, foundations of education, adult and higher education professor, it was the panel of black student leadership and TKE members leading the dialogue and question and answer session.

During the town hall portion, several students expressed concerns about the content of the video and how to move forward in its aftermath. One student said he found the event to be a waste of time — a comment that drew strong rebuke from members of the panel.

“I’m impressed with the number of people that showed up and the number of people that actually wanted to engage in … healthy conversation, but I’m disappointed that one bad apple will spoil the bunch,” Cook said.

Cook said that one comment from the student really affected her, considering all the time and effort the members of the panel put into this event. She said that that close-minded outlook the student expressed is part of the problem.

“I’ve learned from this experience that you can’t always blame someone for their lack of knowledge; I don’t want to say ignorance — I’m just going to call it ‘lack of knowledge,’ ” Cook said. “Some people don’t know the African American plight; some people don’t know the LGBT community plight … and you can’t blame them for that if you’re not trying to teach them.”

Sheets said he encourages any students who did not come to this Diversity Dialogue to come to any future events to continue to have these conversations.

“I think that probably a lot of people came into this a little unsure of what was gonna happen, and I think that throughout the night, a lot of people got a lot of their feelings out,” Sheets said. “People shouldn’t be scared to come and talk about how they feel; it’s the most important part of moving forward.”

Wilkinson said she was very pleased with the event and the fact that so many people showed up, which resulted in a packed auditorium.

“I’m glad we were able to get feelings out,” Wilkinson said. “I wanted to definitely cultivate an environment where there was compassion and critical thinking. I knew a lot of what we were going to get tonight was feelings, and I’m happy about that because there’s not enough spaces where we can talk about what we’re feeling on this campus, so I’m pleased with the event overall.”

Sheets said this entire experience has made him realize that just because one may not personally experience something, it does not mean that it is not happening.

“Eventually, you are going to experience something that makes you uncomfortable,” Sheets said. “But it’s really about how you go about combating that thing, taking it head on and really doing something to change it.”

Clarification: The original in-print headline: Dialogue leaves audience unsatisfied, was missing the word ‘member’ in it.