Smith, students plan race discussions

“A core of students are working with William Smith, executive director for Emerson College’s Center for Diversity in Communications Industries, to bring an organized dialogue about race back to campus next semester.

The Campus Conversations on Race (CCOR) Action Committee has been trying to recruit more discussion facilitators, but so far participation has been slim, Smith said.

The five-week facilitator training sessions, originally scheduled for mid-October, have been pushed back to Oct. 31 to allow for more time to “get the word out,” Smith said.

Just five students attended a preliminary training session, which was held last Saturday, Smith said.

He is working to recruit 10 or more students to be co-facilitators for the program which will take place sometime this spring.

Preliminary training sessions will continue on both Oct. 21 and Oct. 26.

Smith brought the national program to Emerson last spring.

The CCOR is a series of five weekly conversations open to all students. Led by student co-facilitators, each week’s conversation has a specific focus.

Pairs of co-facilitators establish a dialogue and use guided questions to moderate discussions among small groups of students, Smith said.

Junior organizational and political communication major Lydia Bradley, a co-facilitator of last year’s CCOR, said she found the conversation to be a valuable experience since students don’t often get the chance to talk about race issues.

“It was a big growing experience for me,” Bradley said. “It took a level of bravery. It was a very interesting experience.”

Last year, the talks spanned two hours and some students said they wanted to keep the discussion going even after the event had ended, said Lauren Amar, a senior marketing communications major and CCOR co-facilitator.

According to the student survey collected after last year’s CCOR, most of the 24 students in attendance rated the program as “excellent.”

The co-facilitators will be taught how to moderate the conversation so that students who attend the CCOR will be able to express themselves effectively in the discussion, Smith said.

Many students, like senior music production and social marketing major Anna Sumilat, said CCOR carries a message about social awareness that needs to be heard by as many students as possible.

“[There needs to be] a constant and consistent dialogue because the issue [of race] is still evolving,” she said.

The program is also important, Sumilat said, because it provides an opportunity for students to not only discuss and share experiences and views, but also to become more empathetic to students of different racial backgrounds.

Maude Okrah, a freshman broadcast journalism major, said she thinks the conversation will promote a greater understanding of the role of race in society.

“It’s good for our community to know about issues of race and to be open to it,” Okrah said. “It’s better to discuss race sensitive issues than to ignore them.”