Discussion Fuels Democracy: The Civil Discourse Club of LBCC works to create a safe environment for discussion

LBCC student Anthony Lusardi walked into the North Santiam Hall and was shocked when he saw a work of art that sparked controversy and eventually helped build the Civil Discourse Club.

The art piece displayed in NSH was depicting two men fornicating in explicit detail. Some people found it offensive and encouraged it to be taken down, while others found it expressive and were okay with it being uncensored and displayed. They submitted their opinions to a comment box nearby.

However, that didn’t spark conversation to drive the discussion forward, instead, some comments contained hateful language.

Lusardi wanted to start an effective discussion. He and his peers, along with the help of faculty member Mark Urista, set up a debate that was more of a discourse. Unlike a debate, where there is a right or wrong side, a discourse allows for people of varying views to express their opinions in an open-minded environment in hopes to achieve a mutual understanding about the subject.

“We need to embrace nuance; we don’t live in a black-and-white world: it’s gray,” said Urista.

The debate received a huge turnout and yielded over 600 views on Facebook. It was also featured in The Democrat-Herald, and the Gazette-Times newspaper, and helped form the Civil Discourse Club on campus.

You can encounter the work of the members if you go to the LBCC Library and check out their “Civil Discourse wall.” It’s a whiteboard near the entrance that is usually covered with responses to a question regarding a touchy subject.

Hailey Adkisson, a communications instructor at LBCC, gave the idea of a civil discourse wall. She helped develop a similar wall when she was working at North Dakota State University called the “democratic wall.” Unlike the one we have at Linn-Benton, it was an actual wall covered in whiteboard paint.

One topic of the civil discourse wall was about kneeling to the national anthem, and it didn’t take long for it to fill up with different responses expressing a variety of views on whether kneeling was disrespectful to the flag or not.

People had conflicting views and it was discussed at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Civil Discourse Club. It led to a common conclusion on all sides when it was found that kneeling to the national anthem was a way to express grief about a certain loss. NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling was a form of protesting the treatment of minorities in the United States while remaining respectful to the flag.

Lusardi said, “People tend to stay away from common ground solutions because it’s easier to paint the world in black and white.”

Lusardi hopes that eventually, the club can host a roundtable discussion every other week.

He plans to open a new chapter at OSU and host similar roundtable discussions and feature a civil discourse wall.

Thanks to the club, LBCC is now the only community college to be part of the discourse organization called Bridge USA and members of the Civil Discourse Club are looking forward to attending the organization’s next summit in Dallas, Texas.

The Civil Discourse Club is hosting their next roundtable discussion on April 18 in the Diversity Achievement Center from 10:30 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. regarding gun control. Anybody who wants to be a part of the discussion is encouraged to come give their opinion on the subject.

For more information about how to get involved, stop by one of the club’s meetings. They meet on Fridays in South Santiam Hall 209 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.