By Doug Ruschman, Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications, Xavier University

Image courtesy of Xavier University

Image courtesy of Xavier University

“The challenge is great. The time is now. We’re ready to Take It On,” says Dr. Rachel Chrastil, professor of history and one of the academic leaders behind Xavier University’s new Take It On campaign.

The campaign’s organizers believe that colleges and universities can do better at promoting civil discourse. Students should seek out differences with the aim of listening, respecting and being open to learning from each other. Exploring common ground when discussing controversial topics offers a way for students to learn to engage in difficult dialogue with others in a civil, productive manner.

Chrastil explains, “As we head into the 2020 election season, political division and polarization has become more intense both on a national level and in our local communities. We often avoid and demonize those who disagree with us. This project encourages the Xavier community to seek difference, encourage engagement, and explore common ground to overcome obstacles that keep us from greater understanding and collaboration.”

The goals of the Take It On campaign include:

  1. Building campus capacity for constructive, reflective dialogue.

  2. Creating spaces for engagement on difficult issues.

  3. Proactively preparing for challenges in 2020 (particularly with regard to the election), and building capacity to be responsive to those who seek to break our community bonds.

At Xavier, this work began last spring, to provide faculty with the skills they would need to facilitate difficult conversations in the classroom. The University brought in a nationally-renowned speaker, Kathy Obear, who hosted sessions on ways to identify disrespectful comments and behaviors; understand their negative impact on individuals and groups; and find ways to engage and seek support.

The University then identified ten shared commitments for deepening and broadening the bonds of the campus community. Some were rooted in Jesuit principles, including:

Xavier’s Director of Government Relations, Sean Comer, is among the leaders of Take It On. He says, “This has been an exhausting and tense election season, but some time on or after November 3, we’ll elect a President, members of Congress, and leaders in our local communities. We still have to care for our collective responsibility to govern after this election. That requires supporting one another and learning from each other. It requires sincere, open conversations.”

Comer encourages students and employees not only to vote this November, but to consider contributing on Election Day in other ways, such as serving as poll workers, a task that may be especially critical in this pandemic year. Xavier is supporting these efforts by holding classes remotely on November 3 and by supporting employees who would like to serve as poll workers.

Dave Johnson, Xavier’s Associate Provost for Student Affairs, says, “We are proud that our Xavier student leaders have encouraged voter registration and are planning events modeled on restorative justice to bring together students from a variety of political perspectives both before and after the November 3 general election.”

Click here to learn about all events being sponsored by Take It On this Fall.