TNE Editor

RiverHawk Roundtables promotes open discussion among students

Published 11/6/18

Bradley Dame

TNE Writer

In the spring of 2018, the Northeastern Student Government Association created RiverHawk Roundtables. The event invites students and faculty to have conversations about society, politics and current events. 

At the beginning of the semester, NSGA sends out a sign-up sheet to faculty and staff with a list of example topics that could be covered, though the subject is ultimately up to the speaker.

“The idea is to provide students a place outside of the classroom to participate in intellectual conversations about topics that are relevant at that time,” said Caroline Rowland, director of programming. “There is really no topic that is off limits.”

Each session covers a wide variety of topics, including fake news, marijuana legalization, cultural appropriation and campus sustainability concerning single-use plastic items.  The speaker for each topic presents an opening statement and then facilitates discussion among the attendants for 15 minutes before moving on to the next topic.

“It allows people to share opinions on different topics,” said Michael Payne, coordinator of orientation and community engagement.  “It exposes different ideas to people around campus. I’m from Chicago, so something like cultural appropriation of Native Americans just wasn’t something I thought about, but now I understand it.”

Payne was a speaker at the most recent roundtable discussion.  He has a degree in environmental health and safety management, so he discussed the overuse of plastic items in America. The students had a discussion about the straw ban in California and how much difference can be made through small personal adjustments as well as advocating for larger change in environmental policy.

“I think at times there is this mentality that people go to college just to gain a vocational skill,” said Dr. David Scott, media law professor.  “But going to college is also about learning to be a better citizen.”

Dr. Scott spoke at a previous roundtable on whether or not a sitting president can be indicted.  He found it encouraging that students were showing up to the event, despite being late in the afternoon in the middle of the week.

“When you have students in a college just going for their own credentials and not engaging much with one another, there isn’t a lot of room for intersectionality, because the students are kind of in different worlds,” said Dr. Scott. “It’s good to see students from different majors talking to each other and learning from one another.”

Dr. Scott said he could see this change occurring as a larger youth awakening in the country, and more students than usual are getting interested in politics.  There is evidence to support this in the analytics of early voting participation among youth voters for the Nov. 6 midterm elections.  Early voting among 18 to 29 year olds is up by 508 percent in Texas compared to the last midterm election, according to a report from the Independent.  Early voting among African-American and Hispanic voters in Texas is up over 200 percent.  Similar numbers are reported in Georgia, Nevada, Florida and Arizona.

RiverHawk Roundtables could be a reflection of increasing awareness of current issues among college students.

RiverHawk Roundtables is once a month. The last one of this semester is at 4 p.m. on Nov. 28 in the UC Ballroom Lounge.

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