2015-2016 Critical Conversations

#Connected or #Disaffected? Diversity and the Power of Pop Culture & Social Media

Friday, October 9, 2015 (Watch the video here)

Social media sites provide highly interactive platforms for individuals and communities to co-create, share, and modify user-developed content. The growing use of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Yik Yak, and countless other sites on the web offers many new ways to connect and interact electronically. The web has given voice and power to individuals and communities, particularly the traditionally oppressed or underrepresented, and it has created new opportunities for self expression through writing, music and art.  However, popular culture and social media’s immediacy of sending and receiving messages in real time has also raised issues regarding content veracity/reliability;  racist and sexist rants; as well as bullying and personal attacks. What is the future role of social media in our communication and interaction with each other and how can we use this new technology to advance issues about equity and diversity? Join us for an engaging and timely discussion.

Panelists:  Jason Bucklin, Out4Good & LGBT Programs Coordinator, Minneapolis Public Schools; Stephanie Chrismon, Givens Fellow and Academic Advisor, Martin Luther King Program, University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts; Elliott Powell, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota American Studies Department whose research focuses on race and popular music; Uyenthi Tran Myhre, Assistant Director, and Coordinator, Social Media Communications, University of Minnesota Women’s Center. ModeratorAnitra Cottledge, Director of Communications, University of Minnesota's Office for Equity and Diversity

Click here for more resources from the University Libraries


Queer Histories (Queering History) of the Twin Cities

Friday, October 30, 2015 (Watch captioned video here) - NOTE: Due to technical difficulties, the video for the beginning of this Critical Conversation is currently unavailable.  We are working to add the beginning video and apologize for the inconvenience.

Recent census data suggests that the Twin Cities metro has one of the larger concentrations of same sex couples between the coasts, causing The Advocate, in 2013, to proclaim the Twin Cities “a Midwestern gay mecca.” But this is only one part of a much larger and deeper queer history that historians, archivists, and activists are working to preserve and bring to broader public attention.  From the University of Minnesota Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies, to Stewart Van Cleve’s Land of 10,000 Loves: A Queer History of Minnesota, many are discovering queer history and queering the history we’ve already discovered.  Join this discussion to hear from those who are committed to sharing this important history - and from those who have lived it.

Panelists:  Karen Clark, Minnesota State Representative, District 61-A, known for GLBT activism and community-based advocacy on behalf of inner-city constituents and low-income and minority-status Minnesotans; Martha Hardy, Librarian, Assistant Professor, Metropolitan State University and Secretary, Bisexual Organizing Project; Andrea Jenkins, Oral Historian for the Tretter Collection Oral History Transgender Project at the University of Minnesota; Stewart Van Cleve, Archivist and author of Land of 10,000 Loves: A Queer History of Minnesota.  Moderator:  Lisa Vecoli, Assistant Librarian and Director, University of Minnesota Tretter Collection.

Click here for more resources from the University Libraries


Limiting Liberty: The Recurring Collision of Free Speech and Religion

Friday, November 20, 2015 (Watch video here)

Since 1791, when the First Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted, the free exercise of religion and the protection of free speech, press, and assembly, have been enshrined as deeply held American values. Yet free speech and religion have historically, and recently, sometimes been at odds. These conflicts have occasionally resulted in vitriol and even violence, as witnessed in the January 2015 murders of journalists, editors, and cartoonists at the Charlie Hebdo publication in Paris. Web connectivity and the 24-hour news cycle have enabled nearly immediate transmission of news, and sometimes, nearly immediate social unrest. Recently, religious freedom legislation claiming to protect religious belief and practice has emerged in several state legislatures across the country. Through the lenses of Constitutional law, journalism and communications, cultural practice, and public security, this conversation examines the rights and limitations of free speech - and the rights and limitations of holding and practicing personal beliefs.

Panelists:  Suda Ishida, Professor, Communication Studies and Director, International Journalism Program, Hamline University; Heidi Kitrosser, Professor, University of Minnesota Law School whose specialization includes Constitutional Law; Steve Sack, Editorial Cartoonist, Minneapolis Star Tribune; Fadwa Wazwaz, Editor-in-Chief, Engage Minnesota, a media voice for Minnesota Muslims.  Moderator:  Kimberly Hewitt, Director, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, Office for Equity & Diversity.

Click here for more resources from the University Libraries


A Failing Grade? Addressing Opportunity and Achievement Gaps in Public Education

Friday, January 29, 2016 (Watch the video here)

The achievement gap is the statistically significant difference between white students and students of color in terms of test scores, grade point averages, graduation rates, college attendance, and other metrics.  Embarrassingly, the US Department of Education describes Minnesota’s achievement gap as one of the widest in the country. Join this discussion to examine contributing causes such as food insecurity, inadequate family support, dearth of economic resources, as well as remnants of systemic racism in public school classrooms. Engage in a conversation about current and proposed solutions based on academic/community partnerships,  support for better teacher training and diversification, family support programs and other attempts to close what may better be described as an opportunity and resource gap rather than simply an achievement gap.

Panelists:  Lisa Sayles-Adams, Assistant Superintendent, K8 and Middle Schools, St. Paul Public Schools, District 625; Peter Demerath, Associate Professor, Organizational Leadership and Development, University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development.  Moderator:  Michael Goh, Associate Vice Provost, OED, and Associate Professor, University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development.

Click here for more resources from the University Libraries


Our Somali Neighbors: Learning More about Somali Culture and Community

Friday, February 26, 2016 (Watch video here)

Located in the Horn of Africa, and known in ancient times for trees that produced the aromatic gum resins frankincense and myrrh, modern Somalia’s recent history has been turbulent, as fighting among sectarian warlords has led to a major exodus of Somali civilians caught in the midst of various conflicts. Minnesota has become home to the largest Somali population in the U.S. and a significant Somali ‘neighborhood’ has developed near the University of Minnesota campus. Learn more about our Somali neighbors through a panel discussion about Somali history, culture, and religion, as well as beliefs regarding family structure, gender roles, medical and mental health care, and more.

Panelists: Imam Abdisalam Adam, Board Chair, Islamic Civic Society of America (Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque, Minneapolis) and ELL Teacher, Central High School, St. Paul; Sahra Noor, RN MS, CEO People’s Center Health Services, Minneapolis; Abdi Warsame, first Somali Minneapolis City Councilman, Ward 6; Najmo Yusuf, CONECT Program Coordinator at Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, Plymouth, Minnesota.  Moderator:  Cawo Abdi, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Sociology Department.

Click here for more resources from the University Libraries


Hit 'em Again: Is Violence an Essential Thread in the Fabric of American Society?

Friday, March 25, 2016 (Watch captioned video here)

The School of Public Health Student Senate will host an East Bank live streaming location for the March 25 Conversation in Mayo 3-125.  All are welcome to watch the Conversation live and then take part in a post-Conversation discussion.

America’s long history of violence began with the killing and displacement of its indigenous peoples. Later, largely as a result of slavery, the Civil War nearly tore the country apart. The U.S. is a world leader in gun ownership per capita, in murders committed by guns and in numbers of citizens incarcerated. Domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sex trafficking continue to be serious, yet often ignored problems, and places we expect to be safe - homes, schools, theaters, hospitals - have sometimes experienced bloodshed and murder. Violence in video games, television, and film has become more graphic and explicit, and extreme aggression in professional sports now results in brain and other life-shortening injuries. Join a discussion about potential factors implicated in violence including: changes in popular culture; a public/private prison industry focused more on profit  than rehabilitation; pervasive attitudes regarding mental health; and the systemic roles of sexism and racism. In addition to understanding causal links, learn more about potential solutions. How can we create a society focused on conflict resolution through pragmatic, peaceful means?

Panelists:  Dallas Drake, Executive Director, Center for Homicide Research; Lindsey Middlecamp, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Minneapolis, rape and sexual assault survivor and activist; Zeam L.B. Porter, a transgender/gender non-conforming high school student and activist in anti-bullying/Safe Schools initiatives; Oliver Williams, Professor, University of Minnesota School of Social Work whose research focuses on domestic violence.  Moderator:  Julie Showers, Director, University of Minnesota, Office for Conflict Resolution.

Click here for more resources from the University Libraries


25 Years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Public Policy, Personal Attitudes, and Social Change

Friday, April 22, 2016 (Watch video here)

The School of Public Health Student Senate will host an East Bank live streaming location for the April 22 Conversation in the SPH Dean's Office Conference room (Mayo A-301).  All are welcome to watch the Conversation live and then take part in a post-Conversation discussion.

Historically, the progress of civil rights movements often ebbs and flows, sometimes making great strides, then regressing during periods of economic or cultural turbulence, changes in political leadership, and new legal interpretations, especially decisions by the Supreme Court. While passage of the ADA in 1990 provided a gateway to mainstream life for people with disabilities, many barriers, issues, and questions remain. Most important among these problems are the following: unemployment and underemployment; lack of accessible transportation; lack of access to appropriate and advanced technology; and insufficient access to health care. Additionally, concepts such as ‘employer responsibility’, ‘reasonable accommodation’ and ‘undue hardship’, lack scope and specificity, and therefore are continually reviewed through case law. Furthermore, changes in personal attitudes and cultural practices also present new challenges and interpretations of the original law. Through the various lenses of research, activism, law, and community culture, we will explore current issues and future possibilities for this important legislative achievement.

Panelists:  Sue Abderholden, Executive Director National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI); Justin Page, Attorney, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, Minnesota Disability Law Center; Sue Lindgren, Access Consultant, University of Minnesota Disability Resources Center; Margot Imdieke-Cross, Access Specialist, Minnesota State Council on Disability.  Moderator:  Linda Wolford, Associate to the Associate Director/Student Access Disability Resource Center, Office for Equity and Diversity.

Click here for more resources from the University Libraries