UIS holds public forum on diversity following Travis Porter coverage

UIS holds public forum on diversity following Travis Porter coverage

UIS students called The Journal’s coverage of the Travis Porter concert unfair, even racist, during a 2 . hour panel discussion sponsored by the Office of Student Life and the LGBTQA Resource Office.

Students also decried a lack of diversity on the UIS campus.

The forum was held Sept. 17 in Rooms C and D of the Public Affairs Center. The six-member panel included representatives of The Journal, Queer-Straight Alliance, Inqueery, Residence Housing Association, Student Government Association, and Student Activities Committee. Joe McGee, president of the Student Government Association, was moderator.

Asked what she thought the forum accomplished, Sophia Gehlhausen, acting director for the Diversity Center, said she believes that exposing negative feelings some students have is important for the growth of the university and those who attend it.

“Overall, I think it (the forum) went well. It gave people a medium through which they could vent their discontent, and they did so. It also gave The Journal staff a lesson in how seriously the content of the newspaper is taken by the campus community,” she said.

As for the event’s impact on the future, Gehlhausen called it “a good first start.”

“I think that everyone should realize that with respect to understanding the needs of and issues affecting diverse groups on campus, many of us have a lot to learn. In the case of this forum, I think groups on both sides of the conflict need to recognize this and take it into account during future discussions. People were angry – understandably so – but I think that anger, to some extent, results from an expectation that people should understand one’s position better than they do. But they don’t,” she said.

“The reality is that our students hail from extremely diverse backgrounds, and in some cases this may be their first exposure to such diversity. This is why it is so important to continue these discussions.”

UIS student Denzel Brewer called the forum a success.

“I think the panel accomplished students being able to express their real opinions in person about the article. After speaking, I think it opened up more minds to understand different cultures and backgrounds,” Brewer said.

Another attendee, Matik Brown, said, “I feel that the panel went very well when taking into consideration all of the people offended and/or outraged about the article. This could have easily taken a turn for the worse with simply one foul word or misuse and misunderstanding of communication.” Both Brown and Brewer said they thought McGee did a good job moderating the panel discussion.Brewer was unhappy with some of the discussion, and declared, “What I disliked was the excuses about why the article was written the way that it was and was published knowing that there was some doubts and opinions that might not have been true.” Michael Murphy, assistant professor in Women and Gender Studies at UIS, said The Journal’s acknowledgement of mistakes was one of the panel’s biggest successes.“I also think it’s good that so many students showed up to tell the editor of the Journal that journalism still matters–and what The Journal’s writers say will be read, and both editor and writers will be held accountable by their readers. That’s a good thing for journalism, our campus, and democracy,” Murphy said.

Even though Brewer did not agree with everything said in the discussion, he was somewhat satisfied with the outcome, saying, “I think the student body did make headway towards a more understanding and diverse campus.” Brown, on the other hand, said “Honestly, I don’t feel as if the student body will be able to reach a point of understanding or accepting considering the fact that a majority of us are still confused as to why the situation was even allowed to happen.”

Both Brown and Brewer seemed glad that students got the opportunity to voice their opinions.

Gehlhausen said UIS should “absolutely” hold more communal forums.

Brewer was also supportive of the concept of regular public discussions, saying, “The University should most certainly hold public forums like this on a regular basis. It should not just be when issues arise such as the article being published but for any reason that multiple students feel something should be addressed and changed.”