Reflection: Think Students Won’t Consider Opposite Political Views? Here’s How 2 Universities Got Them to Try


Something similar to this event was held here at Virginia Tech last spring. It was an attempt to get Hokies talking to one another about topics they disagreed upon but the only one I attended was a poorly planned fumble.  Attendees were first asked to identify themselves along a political spectrum- thus effectively “outing” the outliers on the ends for their extreme, in both directions, beliefs. This system was done quickly and without much dialogue- thus disallowing conversation about where others stood and whether or not you belonged on the figurative and literal right or left side of them.  Next the line was divided in half at the middle, and the two extreme ends were paired together, the penultimate extremes paired together, and so on all the way down the line so that the most moderate of the attendees were also paired with each other.   Once this ill-advised matching was complete, the pairs were given vague questions to discuss that they could either “take deep and personal” or keep light and noncommittal.

This whole event was a kerfuffle and, because it was the first in a series, was enough to dissuade me from attending subsequent events.

The events listed in the article seem better planned and more engaging of all viewpoints.  I also appreciate the small group dynamics rather than the one-on-one environment that we had here.  It is near impossible to agree with anyone 100% of the time, thus making a small group a “safer” environment to have a conversation- the more opionins and the more voices, the more opportunities to find common ground, or the variations therein.

What is our role as an institution of higher education, but to stretch students’ minds and abilities to present their own opinions.  But I do believe there are better and worse ways of going about it.


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