As Christian Young sat in history class listening to his professor describe the salons of the Enlightenment period, Young imagined the people in the salons: their elaborate clothing, their odd food and unfamiliar mannerisms. But most of all, Young admired the lively political discussions that the members of the salons were engaged in.
They discussed the pressing issues that affected their community, a practice Young thinks has faded.
“[Politics] is divisive, and if you talk politics with your friends, you might end up losing friends. And I think that’s just madness; it’s madness. We’re all adults. We all have brains capable of having a debate, of having a discussion, so let’s have that discussion,” Young said.
Associate history professor Kenneth Loiselle taught the Enlightenment course that sparked Young’s interest in bipartisan discussion.
“Too often people simply just ‘talk past one another’ and do not actually engage in deeper questions about their particular position,” Loiselle wrote in an email interview. “One sees this everywhere, from those ordinary people who only listen to media that reflects their pre-established positions to political candidates who during debates never actually engage the questions asked of them.”
To promote discussion about social and political issues among Trinity students, Young created his own salon, a new club called Trinity Forum.
Last semester, Young began creating his new club by contacting Student Involvement. His organization was approved this semester.
“It is a civil — emphasis on civil — discussion about politics of our time. Everyone is welcomed; no ideology is barred. I would like to encourage everybody who has anything to say or even who just wants to listen to come,” Young said.
On Thursday March 15, members of Trinity Forum gathered for their first-ever meeting. Eight people met in CSI to talk about guns while eating homemade cookies that Young brought. Young came prepared with prompts to discuss the facets of the gun debate — ammunition regulation, mental illness, teachers with guns, the militarization of the police and the possibility of 3D gun printing.
To begin, students went around the room disclosing their political ideology, if they identified with one. Next, Young prompted attendees with questions. If attendees had something to say about the topic, they would join in the discussion.
The environment at the Forum was casual. Participants joked with one another and respectfully listened to each other’s opinions. There were no dominating extreme positions.
One participant, Isaac Ogbo, looks forward to future meetings with a larger variety of viewpoints.
“I think we need just more people from extreme ends to give that base opinion on the spectrum of political thought. I think that’ll definitely happen once the club starts gaining more traction,” Ogbo said.
Most people agreed that there should be stricter gun control but disagreed on the manner to reach that goal. By the end, there seemed to be a consensus and understanding about everyone’s position on guns and gun control.
Ogbo thinks Trinity Forum is a needed outlet for students on campus to discuss pressing political issues.
“It definitely offered a lot of perspectives on controversial issues. Many people feel like this campus is some kind of liberal bubble or an echo chamber, and I feel like organizations like this help with that. It offers different perspectives and to get people to think outside of that bubble,” Ogbo said.
Because this is Young’s last semester at Trinity, he is looking for people willing to take on leadership roles. Young believes this club can offer a space for dialogue in the Trinity community — something he wishes had been in place when he was a first-year.
“This is the club that, as someone who’s interested in politics and wants to get to the bottom of these issues, I have always wanted to be at Trinity and has never existed. So I decided, final semester here, let’s create it,” Young said.
Young, president and founder, hopes that the club will continue once he has left campus, and will keep having these discussions each week. Trinity Forum meetings this semester will be Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in CSI 437/441. You can also contact Young at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.