Panel discussion on race gets emotional
On a rainy Tuesday night during this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Week, students, faculty and staff gathered in the Roy Room, Dion 3th floor to discuss the “Cost of Silence.” This panel, part of the programming for MLK Week, was led by five Saint Michael students known as “Fellows” because their work on campus is being funded by a special grant to encourage more dialogue on difficult issues of race and privilege.
Tuesday’s panel, more of a closed community conversation than a public one, started with the Fellows stating the rules of the discussion and asking for audience input about those rules for dialogue. Soon after, the audience broke into six smaller working groups, each discussing the cost of silence in our community before reporting out their conclusions to the larger group. For example, one student asked the group why they were just at the meeting and not out in the real world doing something more concrete, based on the issues that were raised. In response, both Moise St. Louis, the College’s associate dean of students and director of The Center for Multicultural Affairs, said it was necessary to “have the discussion” before heading out to take action based on those discussions.
The next day, the evening of Wednesday, January 25, another panel consisting of three Edmundite priests and three faculty/staff member led a long and spirited discussion based on the eloquent essays that they had written for the College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Week at the invitation of St. Louis.
This reporter observed and participated in this Wednesday discussion, attended by President Jack Neuhauser, faculty, Edmundites, students and members of the public. It quickly became very emotional for participants.
After the panelist-essayists spoke for about five minutes each about their written reflections on experiences with racism, the floor opened to audience questions. Nga Nguyen, an officer of the campus MLK Society, told the Edmundite priests among the panelists that while she felt they had great personal stories to share, she and others did not always feel they were present enough around campus supporting people in specific actions. Fr. Brian Cummings, director of Edmundite Campus Ministry, talked from the audience about how every years the Edmundites open their residence to a dinner with the MLK Jr. Society. This reporter later stood to make the point that, as a very religious person, I know – as so many people know — that our priests love all of us, but I understood where Nga was coming from too. “I know you guys are great so I want others to know that and know your presence,” was the point I was trying to make.
Another Edmundite from the audience stood to say he was going to make a concerted effort to do more to connect with the students based on what he had heard. A member of the men’s basketball team asked Fr. Ray Doherty ’51 if he faced any negative consequences for taking a stand in his letter/essay in support of the team’s Take a Knee protest. Fr. Ray said when he wrote the letter, he wasn’t sure how people would respond, but he wrote it whatever the consequences because he knew it was the right thing to do.