Students negotiate difficult discussions with the help of faculty and administration



Kirsten Errik


Throughout this semester, Villanova students have been  faced with the challenge of engaging with each other about difficult national events and issues. This engagement has taken the form of protest, class discussion, community dialogue and posts on social media.

On Oct. 21, students took to The Oreo in protest of police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement

On Nov. 17, a Community Conversation was facilitated in the Villanova Room. Community conversations have occurred from Occupy Wall Street back in 2011, to Black Lives Matter in 2013 and most recently the Presidential Election. In every case there have been groups of students more involved on campus to promote issues of equality, justice and free speech. 

Additional faculty responses to incidents on campus have been out of support for students and to show the concern for their safety from violence and hate. In an email sent to faculty, Provost Maggitti encouraged faculty to use the classroom as a space to discuss pressing issues. Several professors took the opportunity to facilitate discussion in their classrooms. Communicationsprofessor Billie Murray,  Ph.D. believes that those interested in contributing to such discussions should be interested in inclusive language.

“The term ‘political correctness’ is an invention by people who are trying to push back on civil, ethical conversation” Murray said. “It’s a rhetorical term. Political correctness does not mean no free speech. It is to call people with respect and dignity. Language is always changing, the appropriateness of terms will change.”

Villanova is not the only college campus to negotiate this territory. There have been growing incidents of flag burning and subsequent protests across the country. On Nov., 9 a group of students at Hampshire College lowered the campus flag in reaction to the recent election, the following day, Nov. 10, the college allowed the flag to remain at half-staff and sometime overnight the flag was burned. On Nov. 26 and 27, a group of military veterans protested this event and asked for the college to put up a new flag. 

On Villanova’s campus, there have been messages of support and caring for one another, such as the sticky notes posted on the walls of SEPTA tunnel. The Communication Department has set up Garey Hall as a Communication Respect Zone, where free speech and respect go hand in hand. “As Communication Faculty, we are in a unique position to provide spaces for people with people who are trained in and understand the importance of dialogue,” Murray said. “This is the heart of communication, in order to facilitate change we need to communicate respectfully about these problems.”