Student panel discussion to challenge stereotypes of all kinds


by Ethan Zierke, Staff Reporter

Simpson student Olivia Samples is changing the conversation on campus by launching a unique approach to the discussion of diversity.

Samples will be hosting an “Ask Me Anything” panel discussion about diversity at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13 in Great Hall that will strive to provide attendees with a better understanding of the experiences of various panel members.

Samples hopes that this approach will be a more effective method of eliminating stereotypes and prejudice.

“I want people to ask the questions that maybe they never had an opportunity to ask,” Samples said. “The people who are on the panel don’t often get a voice, and I want to give them a platform to say what they want to say.”

In addition to racial diversity, the panel will spotlight various sexual orientations, living as an immigrant and identifying as religious and non-religious.

Samples has opened an anonymous online forum to encourage early discussion amongst students in anticipation of the panel.

The link is featured on the Facebook event page.

“Being anonymous helps people ask what they really want to know and not have to worry about being so politically correct,” Samples said. “I want to have an honest conversation where people aren’t looked at as racists for asking questions.”

Seth Andersen, director of the John C. Culver Public Policy Center, has voiced his support for the event.

“I think the fact that this is coming from a student provides a real opportunity to advance this discussion in a more honest way,” Andersen said. “What often happens when college campuses want to take on sensitive topics and social issues is the administration and the faculty take the lead and you don’t hear much from the students.”

According to Andersen, one of the primary roles of the Culver Center is to “facilitate discussion across the spectrum on difficult issues.” He believes that Samples’ panel will do just that.

“You can much better appreciate someone else’s view of the world, even if you still completely disagree with it, if you have an honest conversation with someone about it,” Andersen said. “That is absolutely foundational to the kind of discussion that should be going on at a liberal arts institution.”

Samples originally wanted to host the event last semester but expressed difficulty getting it off the ground.

“Some of the administration made it seem unnecessary, as if it would start more problems than it would solve,” said Samples. “This semester I talked to 10 other faculty members to make sure I was on track and it was a good idea.”

Both Samples and Andersen said they are aware of the risk that is posed by opening an honest discussion on such sensitive topics but believe the potential benefits outweigh the risks.

“To be decent people we should think about the implications of what we say,” Andersen said. “But if we censor ourselves to such a degree that we’re not actually saying what we think and we’re not challenging other people’s viewpoints, then why are we here?”

Samples said she hopes those in attendance will come with an open mind and leave with a better understanding of issues of diversity.

“People ask me why we always have to talk about diversity and why it’s important,” Samples said. “But I have experienced racism on our campus, and it seems like it’s not talked about. I have to view the majority’s point of view all the time, so if people can sit and listen to our point of view for an hour, then maybe we can have a better understanding of each other.”