Strong Campus Turnout at Symposium to Address Polarization

Lecia Brooks
Lecia Brooks, outreach director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, speaks at “Understanding the Forces that Drive Us Apart: A Symposium on Polarization.”

The Campus Center auditorium was abuzz Feb. 5 with an all-day community event, “Understanding the Forces that Drive Us Apart: A Symposium on Polarization.” The symposium was well-attended, with hundreds of students, faculty and staff stopping by throughout the day to participate in debate and meaningful discussion. 

For Twitter highlights of the day, see this Twitter Moments story. Video highlights of the day will be made available by the Office of News and Media Relations.

The event included talks by prominent figures including Jelani Cobb, contributor to The New Yorker and Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia University who spoke in conversation with UMass Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Enobong (Anna) Branch about free speech vs. hate speech. Lecia Brooks, outreach director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, discussed the state of hate today in America. New York Times bestselling author and Eaton Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard Daniel Ziblatt discussed insights about democracies that have failed and why.

Two panels of academics who discussed the history of hate and the structures of polarization were also featured during the day, along with break-out sessions that helped participants learn skills to overcome polarization.

The symposium was organized by the Office of Equity and Inclusion. As part of the Dignity and Respect in Action campus initiative, the event was designed to help participants understand the dynamics of political and social polarization using scholarship to understand the present moment and contextualize it within U.S. history.