Center4ME hosts the first DIRT Talk of the semester on immigration issues

The Center for Multicultural Enrichment hosted its first Diversity, Integration, Reconciliation and Transition Talk of the fall 2017 semester entitled, “DIRT Talk: Immigration, Patriotism, & Christianity” Tuesday, Sept. 19 at the Center4ME in the Montview Student Union.

The forum-style DIRT Talk focused on educating and engaging students on the effects of immigration reform both domestically and internationally by challenging their perspectives on the subject.

The event hosted its largest DIRT Talk since its inception with 110 students in attendance. The event provided a safe space for students to share their position, approach and mindset on the topic of immigration.

“It is important to evoke candid conversations, especially on matters of race relations and cultural diversity,” Melany Pearl, executive director for the Center4ME, said. “Even if a student feels a topic like immigration does not directly affect them, it is important for students to be knowledgeable about what is happening in the world and to be able to have an informed conversation.”

Pearl said the Center4ME wants to make sure the students can competently voice their thoughts and opinions on the subject of immigration.

“If students leave here with only book knowledge and personal convictions, but cannot articulate and have candid and educated conversations about matters going on in the world, we have failed as faculty, staff and administrators to truly prepare students for the real world,” Pearl said.

The event consisted of two sessions. Session one started with a scenario which challenged students to confront and examine ideologies, personal biases and distinctiveness. Students in attendance were asked to place themselves in either groups based on the following question:

“You prepare a nice dinner and invite 10 people, but 100 hungry people show up. What does compassion look like to you?”

         A) sparsely ration what food you have between 100 people while you attempt to get more food or

         B) feed 10 people well and then invite the 90 back at a later date when you have more food

Once students figured out which action they mostly agreed with, they were then placed in either group A or B.

The purpose of the activity was to allow students to become aware of those who shared the same ideologies and to dig deeper into those similarities through a series of questions.

Each group was then given questions that differed based on their perspective group the student placed themselves in.

Group A was given questions such as “Is the risk of having more immigrants on a continuum?” and “How do you believe that we should protect our borders? Are open borders a realistic concept?”

Group B was asked questions such as, “How do we make the issue of immigration one of justice and fair policy rather than an issue of race?” and “How do we define our current national identity? Who gets to decide who is allowed to take on that identity? Are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program considered Americans?”

Jose Hernandez, associate director for the Center4ME stressed the importance of facilitating dialogues such as this in hopes of fostering community, conversation and awareness.

“Although the Center4ME provides a safe space where students can voice their opinions and concerns; the last thing I wanted was students on one side of the room and students on the other going back and forth,” Hernandez said. “That isn’t conducive to anything.”

Hernandez said the Center4ME wanted the event to facilitate a conversation instead of a lecture.

“We decided that our conversational approach would be a little different,” Hernandez said. “We thought, ‘What if we get students that have at least some sense of like-mindedness in which they could use each other’s vocabulary to help gauge these reflective questions amongst themselves in hopes of challenging our extreme biases within ourselves and to hopefully create something that is balanced?’”

The event ended with a focus on justice and mercy. During this session, each student was given a copy of the “Southern Baptist Convention Resolution on Immigration and the Gospel” which fostered a conversation on how the church should respond to the issue of immigration.

“It is my hope that the Center for Multicultural Enrichment influences the campus in such a way that students are not afraid to share perspectives on topics that are important to them – that every Liberty University student feels and knows that they are a valued part of the Liberty community,” Pearl said.

For more information or to participate in events that celebrate cultural diversity, visit the Center4ME located in the Montview Student Union or contact 434-592-4020.

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