Published April 27, 2016
They gathered twice a week over some eight week in UB’s residence halls. Their mission: to come together as a community to address issues that are polarizing the nation, have some “difficult conversations” about these topics and change the way they think about those subjects — and each other.
UB students faced these issues “head on” this semester with “DIFCON12,” a series of small-group discussions for UB students facilitated by faculty members that aimed to get students talking about differences that threaten to divide the nation in an environment that was open, honest, candid and respectful. Subjects ranged from the backlash against the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the gender gap in STEM fields, to understanding and negotiating privilege and reconciling religious differences.
DIFCON12 wraps up on May 2 with “Lessons Learned,” an opportunity for DIFCON participants and others in the UB community to review and reflect on the 12 “difficult conversations” that occurred over the course of the series. It also will provide a venue for participants to discuss other types of difficult conversations they might want to have at UB, as well as possible new DIFCONs for faculty and staff.
Attendees are asked to bring their “biggest and best ideas” to devise an avenue toward “honest engagement in conversations that matter.”
“Lessons Learned” will take place from 3-4:30 p.m. in the Student Union Theatre, North Campus. It is free and open to all members of the UB community. A brief reception will follow in the lobby.
The DIFCON series is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion, Campus Living and the Center for Education Innovation.
The finale on May 2 will feature three students and faculty facilitators who will speak briefly about their experience in some of the DIFCON sessions and talk about what they learned from the series. A short video of series highlights will be screened so that attendees who weren’t able to attend any DIFCON sessions can get a sense of the scope and depth of the conversations. President Satish K. Tripathi and Provost Charles F. Zukoski are expected to attend as well.
“The wrap-up session provides an excellent opportunity for the entire UB community — faculty, staff and students — to confront what often goes undiscussed: issues pertaining to differences in gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. that, if unaddressed, lead to bad cultural encounters, micro-aggressions and dysfunctional relationships,” says Teresa Miller, vice provost for equity and inclusion who helped develop DIFCONA12.
“DIFCON takes a stab at building the skills and trust that enable members of the UB community to build meaningful and lasting relationships across differences. DIFCONs do not teach people to be politically correct,” Miller says. “Rather, they impart the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to help — and encourage — people from dramatically different backgrounds to better understand each other.”