By Sean WilliamsSTAFF WRITER
Hofstra’s Day of Dialogue was held this past Wednesday, Oct. 29 at various locations on campus. The event, hosted by the Center for Civic Engagement, encouraged students, professors and guest speakers to interact with one another in organized forums.
The event featured topics that ranged from politics in sports to an evaluation on America’s handling of the issue of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
After years of hosting a Day of Dialogue once each semester, the event is now held only in autumn, a decision that seemed to bolster student attendance and enthusiasm for the panels. Though many professors take time out of class to have students go to the Dialogues, many students said that they would have gone anyway, due to the interesting topics.
“I think the tradition of the niversity is to foster a climate of intellectual exchange and make space as free as possible for people to talk about controversial ideas and to formulate opinions and express them to one another in a place that is safe. Day of Dialogue is the one day we set aside to do such work,” said Brenda Elsey, a professor in the history department and chair for the advisory board of the Center for Civic Engagement.
Discussions generally focused on the idea of politics, both domestic and international, with a particular emphasis on race and the Middle East, two areas that weigh heavily on the minds of the American public, especially college students.
Most panels featured a brief introductory lecture by the guest speakers and professors before opening the floor up for questions from students, members of the community and faculty alike.
“How do you raise people’s consciousness so it gets fixed in their conscience?” professor Michael D’Innocenzo asked the audience, in the discussion on police-community relations after the incidents in Ferguson, Mo.
Most students seemed receptive to the speakers and topics, though one complaint was the time limits on the presentations. Dialogues ranged from 55 minutes to an hour and a half, and some were frustrated not by the value of the panels, but by the brisk pace.
“I feel like the restrictions of time prevented a lot of meaningful discussion because I was really interested to hear what the two speakers had to say in such a very limited time to say it. [Jason Starr, Nassau County Chapter director for the NYCLU] barely got finished delivering the background that is important for understanding the situation before he had to sit down for questions,” said Matt Tanzosh, a sophomore radio television and film production major, after participating in the discussion on Ferguson.
Professor Elsey added, “Unfortunately, I think that speakers always feel an obligation, because they’re invited to prepare longer than I wish they did. It’s heartbreaking to see students’ questions go unanswered because we’ve done the work to get them engaged and now you feel like you’ve kind of shut them down and you send them on their way.”
However, the overall reactions of students towards the dialogues were positive.
“I’ve done Day of Dialogue this year, both semesters last year and this semester and I think that like over each semester it really has improved over time in regard to the quality of speakers bringing forth the types of issues that are mentioned are really great,” said Maryum Alam, a junior biology and political science major.
Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion, offered both praise and warning. “The fact [is] that so much is going on around the world that requires expertise that we have in passing at Hofstra but that we are actively cutting tells us that the school is not thinking about how to prepare students for a future of being engaged global citizens and really prepare them for the world that’s waiting out there.”
He continued with more about the issue of Hofstra not addressing specific global issues. “It seems like we’re spending a lot of time and resources chasing after yesterday’s jobs instead of preparing our students for the future and really educating them… I’m sure the school is 100 percent behind this but I think they’re not realizing that more and more we need the Day of Dialogue because of a lack of thinking about what strategic thinking means for the 21st century.”