Intergroup Dialogues: A safe space to engage

By Zara Hurtado

The Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers introduced Intergroup Dialogues, an open platform for a variety of communities to come together and share their experiences while engaging in meaningful dialogues.

Modeled after the University of Michigan’s 25-year-old Intergroup Dialogues program, OSLCC hopes to create a safe space for students to come together and learn more about the many different identities which contribute to Cal Poly Pomona’s diverse community.

“It’s an opportunity for students to dialogue across identities: race, ethnicity and gender,” said Jami Grosser, senior coordinator of the Cultural Centers. “The dialogues are structured to have a balance of identities, so if it is a discussion on race and ethnicity, you have an equal number of white folks as you do people of color.”

“That’s really the goal, to build through community, to build through conflict, improve dialogue and communication skills,” added Grosser.

Multicultural Council President Matthew Rodney is among the many students heavily involved with OSLCC and recognizes the strength of a diverse college campus.

“As students, we all come from a different background, each rich with their own story. These dialogues help us express our unique stories, into a new tapestry that makes up our community,” Rodney said.

The growing concern among participating students like Rodney is a result of the current political situation.

Some feel these dialogues are a welcome change during a time where the news is inundated with stories of hostility and hate speech.

“As the political climate changes, so does the narrative and lived experiences of each student,” said Rodney.

In an effort to create a productive conversation about the similarities and differences in each group, an individual trained by the department facilitates the discussions.

Intended to explore topics such as social identity and conflict, the dialogues aim to tackle controversial settings in a safe environment for the students who participate.

“Dialogue in our current political climate is difficult. I don’t always advocate that every situation calls for dialogue, because sometimes it’s too difficult or too painful,” said Grosser.

She added, “Sometimes you need to take care of yourself and disengage; I think when people are ready to dialogue, understanding that it is a skill and learning from dialogue is especially important.”

The dialogues will be a six-week commitment for participating students.

As the program progresses, students will be invited to go more in depth on more controversial topics such as race, ethnicity, sexual identity and religion. Each dialogue will end with a call to action and a discussion on how students can apply these skills in real life.

In order to ensure there is a diverse group of individuals within each group, students interested in participating were asked to submit applications to the OSLCC earlier this month.

Intergroup Dialogues holds its first session this week.

The progtam will be split into two separate discussions: Intragroup Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity and Intergroup Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity.

Intergroup Dialogue

Courtesy of OSLCC

Intergroup Dialogue

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