Student Congress welcomed Dr. Nick Longo, professor of global studies, to our general assembly meeting on Tuesday, March 14. He was invited to present alongside Valeria Morillo ’23, a student fellow at the Dialogue, Inclusion, and Democracy (DID) Lab and the chair of the Awareness, Education, and Collaboration Committee of the 73rd Student Congress. Dr. Longo’s presentation was titled “Conversations for Change: How can we create spaces for inclusive dialogue at PC?” Dr. Longo attended Providence College as a member of the class of ’96.
He opened his presentation by asking why we need constructive dialogue and answered his own question with the fact that at Providence College, because of our mission and who we are, we have the capacity to take on these conversations and societal challenges on the basis of real facts. He educated the Student Congress on free speech versus hate speech and how we need to emphasize the importance of defining the difference between the two to create safe environments through our conversation.
Dr. Longo shared Tufts University’s philosophy for Civil Discourse, created by Nancy Thomas. The goals for civil discourse include:
1. Learning and advancing knowledge
2. Strengthening intergroup relations and intercultural understanding
3. Transforming conflict, healing
4. Policy and decision making
5. Catalyzing collaborative action and culture change
He introduced the concept of Student Fellows as a part of the DID Lab. They partner with a specific unit on campus in order to advance meaningful conversations for change. The group will be in charge of the DID Walls and other civic spaces as well as participating in a weekly learning community and attending selected professional development workshops. The application is due Friday, March 17, 2023. Through this fellowship, a $2,000 grant in addition to six credits will be given.
One tangible project students throughout the College might have noticed are the DID Walls, the aim of which is respectful discourse. There is an opportunity to rethink public space in order to amplify the voices of students. The DID Walls are currently located in the Feinstein Academic Center, Ryan Business School, The Center at Moore Hall, the Athletics Complex, and the Science Complex. Their aim is to place one in the Slavin Center with the help of Student Congress. The walls often ask a question in order to capture the opinions of students and spark conversation among the community.
Dr. Longo then opened the floor to questions from the audience.
One member asked, what is one of the long-term goals of the office, and can Student Congress help reach it in any way? Dr. Longo discussed the need for a culture change to make PC feel like a more inclusive space. This starts with small conversations and moves to being able to have a voice in policy decisions. This is where Student Congress can help create more inclusive processes so that the flow of information and decision-making is not solely occurring at the top.
Another member asked what their involvement is with faculty and administration, and if they would consider a DID wall in the faculty lounge. Dr. Longo loved this idea and explained the role of faculty fellows and how they have training in their expertise but not on how to facilitate difficult conversations, so they work with faculty to accomplish that. The hope is that faculty will contribute to the public DID walls that are already established.
A member then asked what relationship Dr. Longo will have with the upcoming “With Mutual Respect” conversations that will be conducted with Father Sicard, O.P.. Dr. Longo explained that Fr. Sicard, O.P. showed a lot of leadership by setting up these conversations and DID was not involved in the first talk. The future discussions should have student voices and involvement and he feels that they should not be conducted in a debate style but rather as an open, respectful conversation.
The next student asked if the DID Lab had any social media in order to promote the DID Walls and other activities that they are hosting. @didwallpc is the new Instagram account run by a creative fellow.
Morillo and Dr. Longo spoke about some events coming up in the near future. On Monday, March 27, the communications department, the DID Lab, and Student Congress are hosting an event on Cancel Culture. Keep a lookout for more information.
One member asked if they have ever considered collaboration with other clubs on campus to help promote and include all the groups at the College. Dr. Longo said they have had few, but are absolutely open to any collaborations and encourage people to reach out if they want to work together.
Student Congress would like to thank Dr. Longo for coming and encouraging discussion, and we look forward to working with him in the future.
Voting for the executive board for the 74th Student Congress will begin next week on Sakai. A presidential debate will occur prior in order to learn more about the candidates.
Legislation SCRC 73-02 regarding graduation stoles for first-generation students will be passed.
For those who are interested in joining Student Congress, we will be hosting a coffee house for students to learn more.