Voices heard at “Conversations that Matter” event

by Emily Kauffman – Horizon Features Editor

Nearly 30 students showed up Monday for “Conversations that Matter,” an open discussion sponsored by Hesston’s Inclusion and Diversity Council. The event, led by Julie Lehman, campus counselor, was created to spur discussion about diversity barriers such as race, gender, religion, sexuality on campus.

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Students, faculty and staff gathered in Stutzley Lounge to have conversation. Photo by Eleya Raim

Attendees described the event as both respectful and positive.

“I left the conversation having an optimistic view for the future of Hesston College,” said sophomore Hannah Hostetter. “Having a diverse group of students and faculty/staff represented, created a sense of community and empathy towards the difficult subject matters we addressed.” 

In preparation for the event, students passing through the lunch line were invited to submit their most pressing questions in a sealed box to be used for the open forum.

A few selected questions guided the conversation:

  • Should we welcome refugees to the US?
  • What are people’s thoughts on and perspectives on the Black Lives Matter movement?
  • Are we a community that is open and accepting to LGBTQ students, faculty and staff?
  • Why are there so many exclusive groups on campus (teams, Mennonite, non-Mennonite, international students)?
  • Why does it seem that people who are “supposed” to be open as Mennonites but are actually so closed minded?

The idea for an open forum like “Conversations that Matter” came from alumnus Malcolm Mann (‘15), who first promoted the idea among students three years ago. 

“The thoughtfulness, respect and love the group of students showed for the topics discussed, the people involved in those topics and most of all, each other, was amazing and uplifting,” said Randy Toews, Environmental Services Manager at Hesston College. “It was also good to hear everyone holding true to some key values they’d been taught/learned but yet questioning and realizing that other values don’t necessarily fit themselves or the communities they want to be part of.”

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