Approximately 100 students discussed the presidential election Friday afternoon at “Let’s Talk!”, an event facilitated by the Society of Professional Mediators at the Student Services Building.
The society is a part of a course, Practicum in Conflict Mediation, and focuses on allowing trained mediators and people training to become a mediator to learn how to neutralize conflicts in any given situation.
Students were divided into groups of about eight and spent 90 minutes discussing topics related to the election, including low voter turnout, media bias, public discourse and the two-party system.
The discussions were facilitated by students in the Society. It is part of the students’ coursework to learn how to become professional mediators through practice, according to psychology junior Sarah Karboski, one of the facilitators of the discussion.
Blake Kappel, the president of the organization and international studies and global relations senior, stressed the importance of respectfully considering other people’s opinions, calling the discussion “a time to listen.”
Students with varying expertise on the election participated, including one student who hasn’t kept up with the campaigns for the past three months and another who immigrated to the United States four years ago, with this being her first election season.
Aerospace engineering junior Nicole Vieger said her biggest takeaway from the discussion was realizing the key role media plays in the elections.
“I think by trying to stay neutral you’re more open to listening to someone else’s point of view instead of going into it … and not really hearing what the other person has to say,” Vieger said. “You open up to different opinions that other people might have.”
Cassie Gianni, global policy studies graduate student, said she appreciated the discussion was about issues instead of opinions.
“It felt very safe,” Gianni said. “It’s nice to come and still talk about politics, but in a space where I don’t feel like I’m being evaluated, I just get to share and hear.”
Karboski said the event taught her how powerful communication can be.
“Coming to an event like this and being able to hear other people voice their thoughts in a respectful manner is something that can be extremely productive,” Karboski said. “I think our major gains that we had tonight [were] just people being educated on others’ thoughts.”