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A new perspective: looking for a better angle

by Margaret Stewart
Tue, Mar 5th 2019 10:00 pm

The Better Angels organization is working to bridge the gap and get the conversation between the left and right started. On Wednesday, Feb. 27, Better Angels came to The College at Brockport in order to provide a workshop as well as a discussion about the importance of open communication. 

Brockport Student Government (BSG) Vice President Kate Demskie said that communication is something being widely talked about across college campuses, including those that are State Universities of New York. 

“We’ve talked a lot about free speech,” Demskie said. “If a group wants to bring a speaker on campus, who maybe not everyone agrees with, you work through that and maybe you invite another speaker, who has a different perspective, to kind of counteract that.”

A large part of what helps to prevent miscommunications and foster understanding is hearing the different individual needs of students across campus. Whether or not you agree with the action, BSG works to allow individuals to express themselves in a safe manner in order to promote the spreading of knowledge.

Demskie attended the discussion at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday night in order to further develop her communication skills so that she can better serve the student community. 

“I think a lot of it is just listening without reacting,” Demskie said. “So, listening with no intention of sharing your piece just hearing someone else’s perspective.”

For many this is difficult and it is not a skill that people usually have without having been through some sort of training. Students have the opportunity to begin to hone and develop these communication skills through programs hosted by the college.

“Going to deliberative dialogues that are hosted on campus you get to hear different perspectives,” Demskie said. “The deliberative dialogues and being a part of the Leadership Development Program in general has given me really good skills on how to have these conversations, I think that it could help others too.”

The topic of politics has monopolized social media feeds, conversations and arguments for generations though it has become more noticeable over two years. At the college, the BSG candidates have been announced and current BSG President Josh Mathews said the expectations for candidate conduct have been made explicitly clear.

“There is legislature in place to create a positive campaign,” Mathews said. 

Due to the nature of the campaign, the fact that it is a liberal arts campus and student run, the election is not expected to be too controversial.  

“I don’t know if [controversy affects] student government perse,” Demskie said. “I think that it is definitely always a discussion of why we make sure that we are welcoming to all different viewpoints.”

According to The Pew Research Center, an organization that has been in charge on monitoring the partisan divide since 1994, found the average partisan gap has “increased from 15 percentage points to 36 points.”

It is important to find some sort of common ground on either side of the partisan divide in order to kickstart the conversation. In order to do so, Better Angels teaches people the importance of being educated on all sides of the argument to not only support their beliefs better but so that it is easier to understand where the other person is coming from.

“I think a lot of it comes if you educate yourself,” Demskie said. “You’re gonna feel confident in your opinion enough to listen to someone else and have a civil conversation about it.” 

At the end of the day, the goal for the BSG candidates is the same: be advocates and representatives for the student body while mediating student and administrative relationships.

“BSG is less about government and more about helping students,” Mathews said. 

In order to be successful as a sitting member of BSG, being able to cross the aisle and understand an argument from multiple perspectives is integral.

“It’s a lot of active listening,” Demskie said. “Communication is a big thing. Making sure that everything is clear, asking questions to make sure that people understand what we are talking about and just being open and available to give feedback to.”

The Better Angels event could hardly have come at a better time. Getting the training and skills in now will allow for better communications in the future for the bigger, nationwide elections. 

If you’re looking for more information regarding the Better Angel organization visit: https://www.better-angels.org/.

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