The Office of Student Life has planned three campus wide forums centered on the theme of addressing hurt and disagreement in community in the final weeks of the semester. These forums feature administrators, faculty, staff, and students. The first forum occurred on April 20th, with additional forums to be held on April 27th and May 2nd.
These forums come in response to campus wide upheaval that occurred on February 14th. During this year’s Deep Faith Week, Rev. Marvin Daniels made comments during a chapel address which were perceived by many as harmful to multiple marginalized communities. In response, several students spoke up in defense of those harmed and called for the college to respond. After addressing students directly during an additional chapel service, President Mike Hammond stated in an email to the campus: “As we move forward this semester, members of the College leadership team will work with Student Life and GCSA officers to Create Gordon Campus Forums: a moderated dialogue on a number of issues.” Since this statement was released, the forum’s focus shifted to address the more general idea of experiencing hurt or disagreement.
The first of these forums, “Encountering Hurt Together” included an address by Hammond, followed by comments from GCSA executives Cam Grinnell and TeddyMax Talanoa and the college’s new VP of Student Life Dr. Jennifer Skaggs.
During his address, Hammond encouraged attendees to consider what Gordon might look like at its best, suggesting that the college has the potential to be a space where people can be drawn into reflection on challenging questions even through disagreement, hurt, and offense. He also emphasized that “difficult conversations” are often best addressed in relationship. Grinnell shared a similar sentiment, suggesting that “encountering hurt together” necessitates considering the venue in which those encounters can occur.
Talanoa highlighted the importance of not just considering what hurt has occurred, but how it occurred and how to respond. He shared his experience witnessing hurt play out on campus:
“I think about the different impacted students who come up to me after chapel to share their thoughts, and I think of the hurt that they express to me. And so I’m not thinking about, okay, what is truth? I think that’s an important question to consider. But when we’re encountering hurt together I think we need to really consider the how.”
Dr. Skaggs closed the speaking portion of the event and reflected on her experience working with students facing profound hurt and difficulty. She shared that she believes college students hold the power to change the world, as well as the idea that when encountering hurt, sometimes the most important thing is to simply hold one another’s hurt and meet people where they are at.
The floor was then opened for dialogue between attendees and the speakers. Questions ranged in topic, from how impacted community members can feel welcomed into “difficult conversations” when euphemisms are used instead of naming specific topics, to reflections on how the college might respond to an influx of potentially harmful anonymous Instagram accounts that use the college’s name.
Additional forums will be held in the coming weeks. On April 27th, a faculty panel on the topic “Engaging Disagreement Together” will be moderated by English professor Dr. Kerilyn Harkaway-Krieger. The final forum on May 2nd is titled “Employing Prayer Together,” during which Kori North of the Chapel Office, Dr. Harkaway-Krieger, and Dr. Amy Hughes, Professor of Theology, will lead the campus in contemplative prayer.