Sophomores Kickstart Red Fox Real Talk, an Open Forum About Controversial Topics

Beginning with a kickoff event on Feb. 4, students now are invited to a special event hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA) every other Monday night in one of the River Rooms. The new program entitled Red Fox Real Talk provides a safe place for students to discuss controversial topics proctored by a group of student moderators. Projected on the screen above is a picture related to the controversy, setting the scene for a lively discussion.

The purpose of Red Fox Real Talk is to start meaningful discussion on campus in a safe environment where students are encouraged to voice their views and opinions regarding controversial matters. Moderator Declan Fung ‘21 said the program consists of “completely voluntary events that we urge people to join. [Red Fox Real Talk] is a space where people can speak their minds without feeling judgement.”

Sophomores Celeste Gigliotti, Declan Fung and Steven Ciravolo brought this event to life after Gigliotti conducted a focus group for her COM 200 Research Methods course last semester. The subject of her focus group was “Discussion of Race on Marist Campus.” Fung participated in the focus group, after which the two agreed that more discussions like these need to happen on campus. Ciravolo was an early supporter of the idea.

The three went on to present the idea as a club to SGA. The current administration recognized a need for this open forum at Marist but acknowledged the lengthy process of establishing a club on campus. To overcome this obstacle, SGA agreed to sponsor these discussions as events on campus rather than an official club, and Red Fox Real Talk was born.

“Students come in and we offer the students information on a [controversial] topic with a ‘grey area,’ meaning there are two defined sides of the argument but still room for discussion in the middle,” Ciravolo said. “Our first meeting was about Colin Kaepernick, the themes that evoke out of this topic include freedom of speech and respect for veterans. We introduce one specific topic and that opens up into much broader topics.”

Gigliotti added that the conversations originally introduced are not always the same conversations at the end of the night. Moderators have an idea of the direction of the discussion, but students are the ones that guide the discourse. Gigliotti and Fung both attribute their moderating skills to Dr. Addrain Conyers and Dr. Stacy Williams, both professors at Marist.

After a briefing on the topic of the discussion, students are divided into equally-divided groups. This step is implemented to provide a more intimate conversation between students and a more manageable number of students for moderators to host.

The first meeting discussed the Colin Kaepernick controversy, concerning the athlete’s decision to take a knee during the national anthem out of protest. The SGA-sponsored event drew 31 students, an impressive turnout for a new program on campus.

The program’s moderators hope that Red Fox Real Talk will eventually develop into a club on campus where new members are invited to discuss contemporary  controversial topics. For now, however, the moderators are encouraging all students to join in the program every other Monday night at 9:15 p.m. in the Murray Student Center.

“We are looking to make Marist a more knowledgeable place about issues like this,” Gigliotti said. “As a [mostly] homogenous student body it is easy to forget issues that you are not directly facing, this event is important because it raises awareness for those social justice issues.”

Tony CabralComment