The Eastman Diversity Committee hosted the first “Eastman Diversity Discussion” on Monday, March 4. Students from many different on-campus religious groups as well as professors from both the Eastman School of Music and the River Campus attended the event hosted in Ciminelli Formal Lounge at the Eastman Living Center.
The committee gathered a team of eight panelists all involved in religion on campus in some way.
The first question posed to the panel regarded pluralism in society and how each panelist’s particular faith handled the issue.
Each person stood and confidently spoke to the large crowd about their personal beliefs. All panelists stated that theirs was a faith that was accepting and welcoming.
“My beliefs work well with pluralism,” said Protestant Community Chaplain Laurie Tiberi.
Regarding discussions with people of different beliefs, she said students should be encouraged to talk about controversial issues such as abortion.
“[Students] don’t learn anything if you all just sit around,” she said. “You don’t have to respect every opinion. You have to respect every person. We are honest.”
Panelists spoke from their own experiences and told stories from their respective faiths regarding respect and acceptance of people. Catholic Newman Community priest Father Brian Cool, brought up that one’s faith is a very personal thing.
“It’s more than who you vote for,” he said. “It’s a transformational thing. It’s human experience that can head to conflict.”
Cool believes to have good conversation about faith one has to stretch thyself. “That’s the learning experience,” he said.
Chaplain Father Patrick Cowles of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship of Rochester encouraged audience members to be advocates for human rights and dignity.
He hopes students in his fellowship think of discussions about religion as “a conversation, not a competition or a debate. You shouldn’t feel pressure or uncomfortable,” he said. “You come to a solution from which you can all grow. Don’t shy from the differences. Learn. And let that be OK.”
After the first topic was covered by all of the panelists, the hosts of the talk asked students to break up into small groups of three or four and discuss their own views on the question answered by the panelists.
All groups seemed to be very engaged in their discussions, and many students stood up after the group discussions and shared their own experiences and discoveries with the rest of the room.
The second question was focused specifically on diversity at Eastman.
Panelists agreed that more could be done to encourage diversity talk at Eastman and that mutual respect was the most important thing when having such a discussion.
“Vow to respect [the] dignity of every human being,” Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Denise Yarbrough said. “That means every human being.”
The Eastman Diversity Committee will be continuing their work in the months to come.
Sanguinetti is a member of the class of 2015.