Apr 14, 2011
By Brooke Bunce
A special Town Hall Meeting titled "Diversity and Civility in Our Community," will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, at the Athens Community Center at 701 E. State Street.
The meeting is a joint effort between the City of Athens, the Athens Community Relations Commission, the League of Women Voters of Athens County and Ohio University's Office for Diversity, Access and Equity.
Brian Bridges, Ohio University vice provost for diversity, access and equity, spoke about the collaborative effort the Town Hall Meeting promotes.
"It brings the community into the conversation about promoting diversity as a value," Bridges said. "The impact of that message becomes stronger when the community reinforces the campus' message and vice-versa."
Attendees will be encouraged to engage in active dialogue concerning issues of diversity and civility. They also will have the opportunity to share their experiences, ideas, insights or concerns in an open, accepting environment.
John Schmieding, member of the Athens Community Relations Commission, said one of the primary goals of this discussion is to educate residents and community members about their neighbors and promote a stronger sense of community.
"We live side-by-side, but we don't take the time to get to know each other," Schmieding said. "I hope people get a chance to reflect on what it means to notice ways that we're different and ways that we disagree, as well as things we have in common. I hope we learn from hearing others' experiences."
Vice Provost Bridges emphasized the importance of having college students attend the event.
"If students attend it helps the community members see that everyone is interested in this topic," Bridges said. "The more people we can get involved, the more effective our efforts can be. I really hope that we end up developing 'pockets of champions' across the campus and community who will advocate strongly for diversity in their own way."
The Town Hall Meeting is the first of a series of events hosted by the Athens Community Relations Committee that will campaign for diversity as a value both on the Athens campus and in the local community.
"We don't want people to think that this is a one shot in the dark effort, but that this will be an ongoing partnership between the Diversity, Access and Equity Office and the city to make sure that diversity is promoted as a strong institutional and community value in the region," Bridges added.