Letter: "Friendly Fire" has fired us up

Posted by Dorothy Franks

Dear Editor,

I want to address the dynamics of the SGA dialogue and then I will attend to the conversation Brendan incited on the way Skidmore addresses important issues, and where he went too far.

I was at the dialogue, but arrived late. I jumped right into the "dialogue" and realized that a facilitated sharing of problems on campus would not be the dynamics of the meeting. I felt, and expressed to many people after the meeting, that there was a major clash of expectations and of facilitation styles. As mentioned by someone else, the dialogue was not well organized. There wasn't an official facilitator to make the dialogue constructive, which in part is one point Brendan highlights. There were representatives from both IGR and Fight Club, but Fight Club did their best to facilitate. From the response of half the people leaving part way through the meeting, and from Fight Club, the two ideologies clashed here, and with multiple expectations for the "dialogue" many were disappointed. IGR centers on a controlled environment to talk about issues on race. Fight Club uses conflict mediation to meet people where they are as parties in conflict. In terms of Fight Club and mediation, the meeting went really well. But this meeting was advertised as a "dialogue" which in IGR has a very specific meaning. So as much as people felt Brendan "messed up the environment" of the dialogue, it wasn't originally a dialogue according to IGR standards, and in terms of Fight Club and mediation it was quite a success. This whole event started to get people talking their needs and that's why mediation was successful here. 

Now with regard to Brendan's article, I do believe he had unfair assumptions along with a set agenda to stir up people and drive them into action. I don't think that Brendan's "Ivory Tower" stance was a constructive or accessible post to bring up these issues. At the dialogue his agenda violated journalistic integrity by steering the conversation. We at Skidmore care, we want voice. Brendan's piece, although stirring, did personally alienate and silence many people who were at the "dialogue" and who read his first article. Carol Hanisch of the Women's Liberation Movement said that "the personal is political" and by alienating any one person, I think Brendan has done significant damage to his objective. Those people no longer wanted to listen, they shut down. 

I noted on the Skidmore dynamic, where we want to act and want our input to be heard.  This is what made Brendan's controversial editorial pieces successful, not his tactics at the dialogue or his poignant bashing of Fight Club and SGA leaders. But, in conjunction with his second article, Brendan has fired up all of us (however unpleasantly that might have been done). He has called to action a community to tackle this issue of unstructured and unproductive "dialogues," (even though that may not be the purpose of the dialogues). So I suggest to Brendan to do a little repair and reach out to the people he has silenced. We want to talk about these issues and do something about them, and that wasn't made evident until Brendan's second piece.  I want to thank him for his end result of getting us to care, but warn his to reevaluate his role as a leader on campus and his role as a journalist. 

So now, I beg collaboration between Brendan as a student leader, SGA, IGR and Fight Club to raise awareness about the two different styles of facilitation, the use of vocabulary like "dialogue," and what that means for conversation for future meetings.  Make sure the expectations of those going into a second SGA presented "dialogue" are in sync and that it is a common drive for improving our Skidmore community, and not opposition to articles, unite us all.

Dorothy Franks

Class of 2014

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