‘Conversation and Dessert’ sparks community discussion on violence

Story by Michaelyn Modglin, Contributing writer

Student Affairs and the Kentucky Council of Churches held their annual “Conversation and Dessert:” How We Relate to Violence Tuesday to bridge the gap of differences within the community and create a place to talk about them.

More than 86 individuals attended, including students, faculty and community members.

“The matter is of particular importance because violence cuts across all populations,” said Jody Cofer Randall, LGBT Coordinator and founder of the event. “It is certainly a timely topic that impacts all of us in different forms, whether we choose to recognize it or not.”

The program was facilitated by Peggy Hinds, interim executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches.

“The goal of the event is to bridge the divide of differences in the community by building relationships and to encourage the community to explore what can be done here to deal with violence,” Hinds said.

They also discussed different types of violence that students, faculty and members of the community have been exposed to.

When asked specifically about violence within the community, students reported the relevance of Yik Yak, sexual assault and alcohol abuse on campus.

The groups then discussed ways they could contribute to stopping the violence, such as being open to new cultures, educating the community and facilitating community discussion.

“We live in a society that is kind of hate-filled and discriminatory,” said Matthew Allen, junior from Tompkinsville, Kentucky. “I am hoping that something like this event can be used as an educational tool, as well as a way to prevent Murray from becoming a place where this hate festers.”

During the gathering, Cofer Randall said she is concerned with students’ ability to respond to violence and possible controversy that the fall election may bring.

“Our students don’t know how to counter-protest in a productive, safe, educational way,” she said. “I’m afraid our students have been coddled in certain ways that when this happens this fall, they are not going to be ready to respond to it.”

President Bob Davies spoke at the conclusion of the event.

“Look at the diversity in this room,” Davies said. “It is imperative that we acknowledge and learn from that.”

He said Thursday’s event achieved three of the four values of Murray State. He said these values include being educated by everyone, creating an environment that fosters dialogue about tough issues and embracing others that are not like us.

Cofer Randall closed the meeting by announcing the forwarding of the conversation through the upcoming events of a panel discussion series and the real spectrum film series that will be starting later this month.