Today Penn State’s Center for Democratic Deliberation created and produced a resource for teachers at Penn State, as well as for students and community members: Deliberation in the Midst of Crisis. From the opening of the resource:
The Penn State sex abuse scandal has rocked the core of our campus. Students, Faculty, and Staff are reeling as they struggle to find ways to talk about an issue of this magnitude and complexity amidst the swirl of information and misinformation. This situation is unprecedented, which makes it all the more important for us to remember that the higher-level administrators are not the only leaders at this institution and that leadership comes from a variety of people on this campus. While it is difficult to know how to guide conversations about a still-unfolding crisis, there is nevertheless more to do than to speculate about motives or to call for firings.
The Center for Democratic Deliberation believes that deliberation about such an emotionally fraught issue is most fruitful when it begins in established communities, particularly when those communities care about inquiry. At the end of the term, such communities of inquiry have been built in Penn State’s classrooms, student groups, residence halls, fraternities and sororities, as well as many social and interest-based organizations.
We are grateful for resources such as CAPS to help individuals work through personal turmoil. At the same time, we believe in the importance of 1) thinking about these issues collectively in groups, and 2) learning how to deliberate about community and social issues in real time. It might not seem like it now, but the discussions we have today and in the coming weeks and months will shape our campus and community—both in how we live together and how we are perceived. Penn State is a lot of things, but it is foremost an institution of higher learning, and there is learning to do in this midst of this crisis. In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, the Center for Democratic Deliberation urges instructors to devote class time—or to continue to devote class time—to structured conversations about issues important to the Penn State community. Finally, we urge students to remember that this is their conversation as much as anyone’s.
To these ends, we invite instructors and students to use the questions and resources on this page to help generate productive dialogue.
The following was sent to faculty and graduate students in the English Department and Communication Arts and Sciences Department:
The Center for Democratic Deliberation believes that deliberation about emotionally fraught issues is most fruitful when it begins in established communities, particularly when those communities care about inquiry. At the end of the term, such communities of inquiry have been built in Penn State’s classrooms. The CDD is urging a teach-in for intro GWS courses (English 15 and 30; CAS 100) for classes held on Wednesday and Thursday, November 16 and 17. We invite instructors of other courses to participate as well. During this time, we hope that you will devote at least part of your class to discussing issues raised by the recent scandal.