Dignity and Respect in Action: Community Conversations

Conversations will explore ideas around dignity and respect, the challenges and fears we face when having difficult or sensitive conversations, what this means for us individually and collectively, and how we can work to create a campus environment that rejects hate and embraces our ideals of respect, dignity, and inclusion. Conversations will take place over a complimentary lunch or dinner and will last for 2 hours. Staff supervisors will be asked to provide release time for participants and ambassadors.

Unlike the Spring 2018 Climate Conversations, which were designed to gather data on our experiences in our Colleges and Units, the Spring 2019 Dignity and Respect In Action: Community Conversations focus entirely on skill building around respective dialogue, to allow us to better engage with one another. For these DARIA Conversations:

  • We are inviting around 60 people per session, who will be seated at small tables with a trained Climate Ambassador. 
  • Lead facilitators will provide the entire room with an overview of the LARA method of communicating through respectful dialogue. LARA is designed to help us engage in discussion empathetically in a way that invites diverse perspectives in an effort to create shared meaning. 
  • After this, the small group tables will be given a conversation prompt on a topic that will spur conversation around a specific issue affecting our campus.

Conversation Dates and Registration

  • Tuesday, February 12, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, Campus Center 163C. Registration Closed
  • Thursday, February 14, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, Campus Center 168C. Registration Closed
  • Thursday, February 21, 8:30 - 10:30 am, Campus Center 163C. Registration Closed
  • Wednesday, February 27, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, Campus Center 162-75. Registration Closed
  • Tuesday, March 5, 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm, Campus Center 168C. Registration Closed

What Are Community Conversations?

The goal: to help students, faculty, and staff improve communication across differences and create positive relationships with others in the UMass community. 

The challenge: we come from diverse backgrounds and experiences that lead to varying levels of comfort and ability to interact thoughtfully across difference. Poor interactions can be very harmful, and worries about being misinterpreted can make interactions stressful. These concerns can keep individuals from engaging with others who don’t share their background or lead to miscommunication when they do.

The plan: Community conversations will be spaces to help individuals develop skills and participate in conversations exploring what dignity and respect mean for each of us with other campus community members. All conversation participants will receive skill focused training and materials and be part of a small group conversation around themes of dignity and respect. Additional resources will also be available online for the entire UMass community. In all, five sessions will be held starting after January 29 through April 30, 2019, and we hope you will join one of them. These sessions can also be held for departments/units upon request.

The outcomes: by participating in Community Conversations, we believe that each participant will experience:

  • Increased active listening skills
  • Increased ability to sustain respectful engagement when disagreements occur
  • Increased ability to comfortably disengage from conversations that are unproductive or potentially volatile
  • Increased comfort engaging in conversations where people have differing perspectives than you
  • Increased level of empathy and understanding towards different experiences