Racism, sexual violence and class bias were among the “touchy” topics discussed at the Diversity Action Committee’s (DAC) Tuesday night event, entitled “Touchy Subjects On Campus.”
Throughout the event, skits were performed that addressed a sensitive subject. After the skit, students were encouraged to discuss the issue in small groups, led by a DAC facilitator, followed by a bigger discussion that the whole room participated in. All of the the skits were based on the real experiences of students at Ramapo, stressing that these issues are indeed relevant on campus. The purpose was to open up a discussion with those attending on how to best handle uncomfortable situations.
“A lot of times things happen on campus that people don’t really feel comfortable talking about,” said junior Nuri Muqsit, the publicist for the Diversity Action Committee. “Sometimes they don’t even know that some of these things are happening on campus, so I think it’s good to get it all out there so people can be aware and have discussions about them. Also, this is a safe space to express themselves. If something happened to them, they can put it in a skit and it can be anonymous.”
The first skit involved an employee of the Cahill Center berating a black student about her financial situation after giving no financial advice to a white student. The second portrayed a student leader encouraging women to be aware of their body language at a party. The third detailed a student with rheumatoid arthritis being heckled for taking the elevator to the second floor. The final skit involved a teacher wrongly punishing a student after mistaking her for a disruptive student of the same race. Each situation brought up potentially uncomfortable topics that students may have difficulty discussing.
The DAC facilitators asked questions like “What was wrong with this situation?” “What could have been done differently?” and “How would you have felt if you were in that situation?”
During both the small group sessions and the overall discussion, students were encouraged to share their thoughts while respecting conflicting opinions.
“There are a lot of different opinions on different subjects, and a lot of the skits went both ways,” said freshman Callie Vnencak. “We got views from one side and then we got a debate from the other side.”
Muqsit commented that, while initially students were hesitant to speak their minds, as the night progressed they seemed to be more comfortable expressing their thoughts.
“Originally people weren’t really sure what to say, and I feel like they didn’t want to be judged, and they didn’t want to say what they really thought because they felt like maybe they were wrong,” said Muqsit. “Over time it started to pick up a little bit—people were listening to each other and giving feedback.”
Such feedback prompted in-depth, and at times heated, discussions on the touchy subjects presented. Freshman Emma Trevena took from this event the understanding that every issue is multifaceted; there is no one side to any issue.
“You shouldn’t only look at a situation one way. There are a lot of different viewpoints in different situations,” said Trevena. “You should put yourself in other people’s shoes.”