Saturday, October 31, 2020

B.R.A.V.E. event promotes free speech, voting

By Nickie Hayes

SUNY Plattsburgh’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department has added a student-centered initiative called B.R.A.V.E. conversations to the campus community. B.R.A.V.E. stands for Brave, Resilient, Amplified voices for Equity-mindedness.

These spaces are a way to hold conversations, requiring an open mind, and the ability to listen to different perspectives not everyone would agree with.

The first event was held Oct. 7. The theme of conversation at the first B.R.A.V.E. Space was “Why Vote? Free Speech and Responsibility.”

Michelle Cromwell, the vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion, a member of the President’s Inclusive Excellence Council, and the chief diversity officer, is the mind behind the B.R.A.V.E. Spaces. They looked to SUNY Plattsburgh’s mission statement to explain the purpose of the events.

The core values of the campus include critical inquiry, community engagement, but specifically freedom to speak, think and write.

Jonathan Slater, the chair of SUNY Plattsburgh’s journalism and public relations department, thought the first space was fantastic. He said he thought there was a nice mix of the theoretical and practical aspects of voting, and it was informative for the attending students, community members and faculty. He said he thinks B.R.A.V.E. Spaces will be evolving activity.

He feels the purpose of the event is to support and propagate free speech on campus, tackle issues that need to be addressed in the campus community, talk about important issues of public life and bring people together in a community of conversation.

These events will happen twice a month up until March 3. Cromwell said that when choosing the first topic of conversation, context and time were the main factors. Due to the election coming soon, they wanted to make sure the conversations being held are relevant to what community members want to talk about and are interested in. The first space was centered around various questions community members may have about the upcoming election, and information they might like to know. Specifically, information some of the students would like to know regarding getting ballots, absentee ballots and voting in general.

“This first one was not partisan, so regardless of whether you are a Republican, Democrat, independent or Libertarian, regardless of where your political persuasion is, you can have a conversation about why you want to vote,” Cromwell said.

Members of the college community with experience in the topic were invited to add their voices to the conversation.

“We have so many people on campus that have talents and treasures, and those talents and treasures we can tap into. I think at the end of the day, that is what an inclusive campus community looks like,” Cromwell said.

Carson Fuller, a senior, political science major with a minor in history, said he did not know what to expect from the space, but thought everyone who chimed into the conversation did it in a positive way. He said that he had heard a lot of different answers to the questions, but the same message was being sent to go out and vote, and share what you believe in.

“So what if we do not agree with other people, that is a part of being critical, and that’s a part of being human. We are not always going to agree with people,” Cromwell said.

Fuller said he thinks the events are a good addition to the school, and feels it is important that the student body, faculty and staff have a space where they can be heard and respected.

“The main takeaway for me was that not only do we have the right and freedom to vote, but I think it is also our moral obligation, if we want to see change,” Fuller said.

Cromwell said as a practicing Buddhist, they always talk about having conversations that are courageous and compassionate. They feel that because the SUNY Plattsburgh community  has almost 6,000 students, if conversations are not being held in a way that people can be courageous and compassionate then they are not doing their job.

“My job is not to fix anything,” Cromwell said. “My job is to invite people in to look at some of the things that are not working, examine the things that are working, and for us to come together. Together, making the changes that we need to.”

 

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