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UWF Hosts "Un-Discussible" Conversation Of Tough Issues

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Tre'von Ware
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The University of West Florida is currently hosting a series of initiatives that are aimed at stimulating conversation and thought about race, gender, and other sometimes controversial issues. There are two opportunities to join the discussion this Thursday.

“Discussing the Un-Discussible” is a lunch-time event to be held in the UWF Commons from noon until 1:00 p.m.  On Thursday evening, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. the UWF Department of Social Work is holding the first in a series of community workshops titled “Racial Tension: Cooling the Fires” at the J. Earle Bowden Building in downtown Pensacola.

Dr. Lusharon Wiley is Senior Associate Dean of Students at UWF. She says the genesis for both initiatives was the June 2015 mass shooting at an African American church in Charleston, S. C., where nine people were killed and the white male suspect Dylann Roof, who was arrested and reportedly confessed to police that he wanted to start a race war.

“And, it just seemed that tensions were rising, and students were talking," said Dr. Wiley. "And, so we thought we need a way to bring people together to focus on what are the concerns that we have in the university community, but of course, have the ripple effect. And as a result of that, we thought, ‘hum, let’s talk about it.’”

With that, “Discussing the Un-Discussible” was launched, with good attendance and healthy participation.

“One of the things that’s exciting when you work in a university environment, the whole focus should be learning, growing, and discussing things that are obviously sometimes hard to discuss.”

Dr. Wiley says she coordinated efforts with other campus partners and including the Social Work Department, which started the community-based “Race & Reconciliation,” last year.  That event evolved into the upcoming Escambia County community workshops "Racial Tension: Cooling the Fires." Also, the UWF Office of Diversity and Equity has begun a new on-campus conversation this fall.

“The University is committed to having the discussions, to creating a space where students, faculty, and staff can come, and also, anybody who has a thought they’d like to share," Wiley said. "So with the discussions that happen with “Discussing the Un-Discussible,” it’s not so much an initiative to solve problems, but at least to talk about what are the concerns and what are we going to do at UWF?”

Over the past year “Discussing the Un-Discussible” has focused on current events, nationally and locally.

“It’s been really amazing," said Wiley of the issues discussed beginning with the Charleston shooting and the controversy over the Confederate Flag. " We’ve had just a number of discussions, some of the local issues with the stops of local community activists and community servants.”

Namely, Wiley is referring to last summer’s confrontational traffic stop, which was video-taped, involving Escambia County Commissioner Lumon May and officers from the Pensacola Police Department. Nationally, there was a discussion of Beyonce’s political statement about racism in her “Formation” video and Super Bowl Halftime performance.

On Thursday, the race theme continues with a discussion of “#Black Lives Matter,” and the topic of “Athletes, Privilege, and Rape.”

“With idea of privilege, what are women feeling who are raped, and what is appropriate, and what is the justice system doing,” asked Wiley.  “And, also when we talk about Black Lives Matter, this has been an ongoing concern in terms of how do we respond appropriately, is there an appropriate response, and does society have any need to do or say anything?"

According to Wiley, at a minimum, the University of West Florida has a responsibility to have open dialogue about race and other issues and to create a space for students to share their thoughts.

“Discussing the Un-Discussible” is this Thursday from noon -1:00 p.m. at the UWF Commons, Room 272.  It’s open to the public. 

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.