Ferguson panel promotes discussion on racial awareness

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In an attempt to promote campus discussion about race and social justice, Keith Nightenhesler, coordinator of convocations, organized a Ferguson panel discussion held on Thursday, Sept. 25, in the Union Building Ballroom.

The discussion was open to the public and hosted approximately 50 students and faculty. It began with a panel of eight professors sharing their experiences and opinions relevant to the the situation in Ferguson, where a black unarmed teenager, Mike Brown, was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.

While the Ferguson area has seen lots of looting and unrest since the incident, the DePauw community used the tragic event as an opportunity to have an “intellectual exploration and conversation,” Vince Greer, director of multicultural life services said at the panel.

First to speak was Clarissa Peterson, a political science professor and the director of black studies. While she had the mic, she discussed President Barack Obama’s role in socially supporting blacks and referenced a shooting that happened earlier that day. She showed a dash-cam video of a shooting where a South Carolina state trooper shot an unarmed driver after being stopped for a seat belt offense. No one was killed in the alteration, but Peterson used it to prove her point that police brutality is still ongoing.

“I hope we will broaden our horizons on issues of race and other inequalities and recognize we are not in a post-racial society,” Peterson said after the panel.

After the professors shared, the floor opened up to students to contribute and ask questions. Junior Mitch Metzger was one student actively asking and sharing questions.

“You have to put the majority of the conversation in the student body,” he said after the panel. “Because we’re the ones who comprise this university and define its social structure. This was an important step, but only the first one.”

Once the open floor portion of the panel wrapped up, students and faculty grabbed flowers and participated in a vigil at Bowman Park for Mike Brown.

“I really appreciate portions of DePauw for really trying to reach out,” said junior Joel Borders, who is from St. Louis. “I think it was good for the DePauw community, especially for the multi-cultural community.”

Overall, students were pleased with how the panel handled conversation about racial awareness on campus.

“I thought it was run real well, we had a lot of interdiscipline input, which is good,” said Metzger. “There’s political sides, social sides, there’s so many different parts to the issue, and to get a holistic view from all the faculty gives you a broader sense of the issue.”