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Campus & Community

Drexel Community Unpacks Difficult Topics at Regular iForum Meetings

June 7, 2018

The Forum for Inclusive Culture (I-Forum) was able to comfortably fit 24 people in the Center’s Ida Chen Room for a recent meeting, thanks to a collapsible glass window wall that was pushed aside to allow for more space. This handy feature will be especially useful when the center is used to host other meetings, events, guest speakers and movie nights.
The Forum for Inclusive Culture hosted 24 Dragons for a discussion event earlier this term.

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon in April, a group of Drexel students, faculty, professional staff, and community members gathered in the James E. Marks Intercultural Center (JEMIC) to discuss the arrest of two black patrons at a Center City Starbucks earlier that month.

Everyone at the table had something to say — many commented on systemic racism and how common these types of incidents are. Others sought out the positive in the situation, noting that other patrons spoke up, and that many people later turned out for organized actions against racism. Everyone agreed that increasing opportunities for dialogue and understanding was a step in the right direction.

This meeting was part of a series called the Forum for Inclusive Culture, popularly known as the iForum, which builds on the idea that Drexel community members need regular opportunities to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion affecting the University and surrounding community.

The iForum is organized by Drexel’s Office of Equality and Diversity (OED). Meetings occur at least once per term and are open to students, faculty, professional staff and community members. Recently, the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement joined OED as iForum co-organizers in order to broaden the conversations to topics that include community engagement and civic identity. 

Meeting topics are loosely set in advance, but organizers build in flexibility so that they can address current events as they unfold. The April meeting is a perfect example.

“We were originally going to focus on the general topic of facilitating difficult conversations, but when the incident at Starbucks hit the news we decided to frame the conversation around how people were talking about it in their own circles,” said Cara Scharf, program coordinator of community-based learning at the Lindy Center. After what happened at Starbucks, Scharf said that organizers “felt it was important to be responsive and give people space to reflect.”

The iForum will meet again on June 27 at 1 p.m. in the JEMIC (3225 Arch Street). The discussion topic was inspired by controversies such as Roseanne Barr’s tweets, Samantha Bee’s comments about Ivanka Trump, and the many public apologies (and non-apologies) coming out in response to the #MeToo movement.

“We can discuss how these incidents relate to our own communities,” said Jesse Krohn, OED’s associate director of education and prevention. “Who apologizes and who doesn’t? What do we owe to someone who says they’re sorry? When do people need to fix what they broke with words instead with deeds?” 

Interested in participating in the June meeting of the iForum? Email to RSVP, provide feedback on the discussion topic and/or suggest additional agenda items. Lunch will be served.