by Gabriella Pisano ’18
Assistant News Editor
During the past year there has been a great disconnect in our country, specifically in regards to political affiliation. Most people can agree that we live in a politically charged world, where people have many differing opinions on a plethora of topics. In an attempt to address this the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs held a panel discussion on Thursday, September 28, aptly called, “Make America Converse Again.”
The discussion was open to all faculty and students. The panel consisted of two Providence College professors and four students and addressed the issues of healthcare, immigration, and transgender men and women in the military.
Kristen Rezuke ’18 and Mira Magner ’18, students on the BMSA diversity committee, oversaw the event and asked the panel questions on each of the topics. When welcoming those in attendance, Rezuke addressed the issue of the importance of conversation. “It’s important to talk about difficult political issues. Even if you disagree with someone, having that conversation about it is so important.”
People with different perspectives and areas of focus were chosen to be on the panel. Dr. Jessica Mulligan, associate professor of health policy and management, and Dr. Christina Rodriguez, assistant professor of English, were the two faculty panelists. Both have a focus in Latin American studies in their respective fields.
The students on the panel included Melanie Fricchione ’19, vice president of SHEPARD, Gabe Alvarez ’20, member of the BMSA diversity committee, Michael Bartels ’18, president of PC Republicans, and Krista Minniti ’20, vice president of PC Republicans.
The panel was organized in a way that allowed all panelists to respond to questions when they felt inclined to answer. After the panelists discussed the issues for a time, attendants were given time to converse with those around them and ask the panelists questions.
Many of those attending the event shared the opinion that they were not extremely well educated on the topics being discussed. Having expected this to be the case, Rezuke and Magner provided fact sheets including general information about recent and potential changes in healthcare, immigration, and transgender servicemen and women in the military.
The discussion began with questions regarding health care. “Is healthcare a universal right?” questioned Rezuke. Minniti was the first to respond, stating that health care is part of the private sphere, meaning it is not a universal right. Mulligan responded by explaining how the United States is an outlier in not treating health care as a universal right. “The U.S. has a patchwork system in regards to healthcare,” said Mulligan. “Certain categories of people have certain rights to health care. Until the Affordable Care Act there was no guaranteed access to health care for working adults.”
Though there was obvious disagreement over certain topics, the conversation remained respectful and open.
When the topic of immigration was addressed, Alvarez interacted with those in attendence, asking them to think about the phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” He urged people to keep this in mind when thinking about immigration issues.
Friccione shared statistics about transgender servicemen and women in an attempt to familirize people with the issue. Bartels responded by saying, “A blanket statement that transgenders can’t be in the military ignores the question of if a person can do their job.” When questioned about proposed policy change, Mulligan expressed her opinion that relegalizing discrimination never sounds like a good thing.
At the end of the discussion attendees were given the floor to share opinions and questions. An international student from Jordan stood and shared that as a third world country, Jordan, with a population of six million, took in three million Syrian refugees. He pointed out that this is half of the Jordanian population. When he asked for a response to America’s lack of aid to the Syrian refugee crisis, he was met with silence. The looks shared among students made it clear that this question prompted deep thoughts.
Rezuke expressed the opinion that though at times uncomfortable, conversation between those with opposing view points can be beneficial and thought provoking. There were people at the discussion panel who had different political views and opinions, but the respect in listening to the points of others made the event’s title ring true.