The campuses of Five Colleges, Inc.—Hampshire College as well as Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and the University of Massachusetts—initiated a Day of Dialogue on October 27 for staff and faculty on each campus to discuss issues of race, class, gender, and religion.
The effort was an example of intergroup dialogue, in which participants listen to the points of view of others, work toward common ground, examine different perspectives, and search for understanding and agreement.
The Day of Dialogue idea was launched by the Five College Intergroup Dialogue Committee in 2008, and expands upon the strengths of current intergroup dialogue programs at all five campuses.
The Day of Dialogue, endorsed by the presidents and chancellor of the five schools, is intended to be a starting point for continuing conversations about important issues on all Five College campuses. The long-term goal of this initiative is to develop sustained opportunities for dialogue among college employees led by a trained Five College cadre who can facilitate dialogues on various topics.
Intergroup Dialogue has been practiced at a number of colleges and universities across the nation in an effort to engage students, faculty, and staff in sustained discussions with others from diverse backgrounds. To prepare for the Day of Dialogue, 60 staff and faculty from the five campuses participated in a three-day training session at Amherst College last June. The session included the pioneering work of lead presenters Ximena Zúñiga, associate professor of social justice education at UMass Amherst's School of Education and Mark Chesler, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Michigan.
"Increasingly," says Zúñiga, "research tells us that sustained dialogue across racial and other social divides, when facilitated well, can help participants develop a sense of personal and collective responsibility about diversity and social justice issues impacting their communities."
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