One Radford Family

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Jack Foley |  jfoley17@email.radford.edu

On Thurs. Nov. 10, the Radford University community received an invitation from the university’s President Brian O. Hemphill. He called us together to begin a conversation on what has developed nationally and in our community.  The situations that were necessary to address were the incidences that have occurred following the presidential election and Donald Trump becoming our next President of the United States.

President-elect Trump was not the center of this conversation nor was it about wishing someone else had won, it was about us and the feelings of all sides of the conversation.  The reported incidences on campus made this forum necessary to occur immediately so it was scheduled for Friday Nov. 11 at 4:00 P.M. Students, faculty, administrators and other members of the Radford community filled the Bonnie Auditorium to unite as one Radford family.

Hemphill was joined at the front of the room by Dr. Irvin Clark, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, Dr. Kenna Colley, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, and Dr. Carter Turner, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and President of the Faculty Senate.  These individuals were given a chance to speak and respond to questions and comments of the people in attendance.

Dr. Hemphill began the assembly by establishing the importance to come together and have meaningful discussion that “combines our multiple conversations.”  Continuing along those lines, Dr. Colley reaffirmed that Radford is a welcoming and a friendly place and stated that insults do not produce change but rather growth and learning.

Dr. Clark was the first to address our President-elect Trump as a “reality that will not go away.”  He also urged us to allow the best democratic processes to work like they always have.  The final opening remarks were from Dr. Turner on the importance of listening and learning how to work with others who face different situations.  Dr. Turner also left us with an important point before we got to the question and comment portion of the evening; that all of his friends across the political spectrum are all feeling similar emotions.

The beginning of the audience’s comments made it apparent that all taking part in this discussion were just as serious as Hemphill.  The remarks from students and faculty were wide ranging, some emotional using fear and anger when explaining their personal experience, and others using their time on what we can and must do to combat intolerance within our community.

The topics spoken about were on many things, some being gender, race and sexual orientation.  We heard a student ask a memorable question to the President, “What will you do to protect me?”  This question affected all members of the faculty who were present and it showed the real fear that members of our community feel.

Though this question was asked by one student, the fear was felt by many in the room.  Students also gave suggestions on how the faculty and administration can get this conversation to the ears of the individuals who do not voluntarily attend these forums or listen to differing viewpoints, such as making sure this discussion starts in the classroom.  All the comments made Friday were centered around one goal: making Radford University a better place for all of us.

The conversation that took place Friday evening did not end when the attendees left the auditorium.  President Hemphill made it clear that this goes on past Friday and it will continue until all members of our community feel welcome and safe at Radford.  The name of this forum was precise in saying that we are united as one Radford family.  Using the thoughts of a person commenting at the event, families argue and families disagree but families do not give up on each other.  This event proved that Radford is better than the aggressive and negative rhetoric and we will continue to be a welcoming and friendly place to all of our diverse members because, as another person commented, our diversity creates a richness that makes us all better.