December is a time for reflection. A time to look back, discuss and review how much we’ve changed in just 365 days. Earlier this semester we made a campus-wide call to make and keep awkward conversations. And, looking back, what an awkward semester we have had. From campus-wide discussions about religious liberties, to admin-led “trauma therapy” sessions in response to the election and even to the infamous Ryan Lochte-Brazilian police fiasco.
While sometimes we wish this semester was just a fever dream fueled by Steve Harvey’s “Miss Universe” blunder, we cannot. We need to stand up, realize what has happened and face it head on. But that’s a lot easier said than done (believe us “” it’s our job). This semester has shown us that we are not always in the majority. It has shown us that we need to take responsibility for our actions and mistakes. It has shown us how much practice and patience is required when it comes to controversial topics. But what it has shown us the most, is how easy it is to not engage when things get awkward.
We as a staff learned this first hand during an interview this summer. Vice president of Academic Affairs, Deneese Jones, mentioned how her identity as a black woman has shaped many of the experiences and interactions that led her to where she is today. And we left it at that. No push, no questions; we dropped the ball. But we learned one of the most valuable lessons of the semester early: take every opportunity to ask why.
Next, we had the opportunity to talk to social-political comedian W. Kamau Bell. As two white girls learning from a black man whose comedy is heavily based on his experiences with racism, we got our second chance to make it awkward by asking why. Similar to Jones, Bell challenged us to think about how our privilege clouds our experiences and the best way to learn how to overcome it is to ask those awkward questions.
Just one week later, Trinity’s theatre department performed “Good Kids,” which brought light to the issue of sexual assault on high school and college campuses. It also opened a discussion surrounding representation of disabilities in the theatre. A rousing back-and-forth took place about the decision to cast a able-bodied actress to play a disabled character and the representation of disabled actors in general. It was exciting to see members of our community voice their opinions about these issues.
Perhaps the biggest, most awkward event of the semester was the presidential campaign and election. From the laughable awkwardness, like Jeb!’s “please clap,” to Jill Stein’s live-streamed input during the debates to the serious issues regarding feelings of discrimination and fear, the election cycle was full of cringe-worthy conversations and concerning comments. But amid this, Trinity faced our own stream of awkwardness. From chants to “Build the Wall” to safety concerns to admin-led therapy, the Trinity community has proved how constructive a campus dialogue is and how many more we need.
Most recently a lecture by Ryan Anderson hosted by the student organization, Tigers For Liberty, sparked debate across campus regarding marriage equality, the definition of marriage and religious liberties tied to these topics. In a move that showed the range of differing ideologies on campus present at the lecture, the auditorium was filled with students donned in rainbow attire to show support for the community. Once again, Trinity’s community faced an awkward conversation that is not always easy to talk about.
As the semester comes to a close and we reflect on the conversations started on campus and outside our Trinity bubble, we look forward as a publication to what the next semester and the new year holds. We stand with our students and their right to start awkward conversations. We are proud to keep it awkward.