Council To Kick Off 'Days of Dialogue' After Thanksgiving

Though scaled back and postponed since October, the Undergraduate Council will at last hold a three-day "Days of Dialogue" event next week, fulfilling a major initiative of council President Fentrice D. Driskell '01.

Driskell announced at the council's meeting Sunday night that the events, which will include panel discussions on topics ranging from rape and sexual assault at Harvard to the role of religion on campus, will be held from Nov. 28 to 30.

President Neil L. Rudenstine, in a rare joint effort with the council, will make an appearance at an open town hall meeting with students on Nov. 30. Associate Dean of the College David P. Illingworth '71 will also attend the event.

Driskell said she is very excited about the events.

"It's a good idea. People are beginning to rally behind it and take it seriously," she said.

Driskell's dialogue events were originally scheduled to last a week and take place in mid-October, but the Council postponed them due to scheduling conflicts.

"Trying to find locations for the events was a big problem," Driskell said. "And in order to make it as big of an event as we hoped, we needed more time."

Although other organizations hold discussion-based events of their own, the council hopes the "Days of Dialogue" will bring the whole campus together since it is supported by the council and an array of campus organizations including the Black Student Association, Harvard Hillel and the Women's Leadership Project.

"We are one of the few organizations on campus whose goal is to fight for and represent the interests of all students," said council member Fred Smith '04.

Driskell said she hopes "Days of Dialogue" will provide for interaction between the council and students, something that may be lacking right now.

"The council has become in many ways insular. This is a way we can take issues to the student body," she said.

According to Smith, there has been a lot of debate within the council about the council's role in campus issues, especially political issues.

"The council's role is not to present its own views, but to bring students from all over campus to talk about the issues," Smith said.

The council would like to organize more events like "Days of Dialogue" if it receives widespread support on campus. The idea for the program stems from a debate three years ago, when students packed Sanders Theatre to hear Harvard professors debate affirmative action.

"I would like to see the council do something like this every year," said Driskell. "First and foremost, it brings together different types of groups and it's really inexpensive. It won't cost anything except time and energy."

A kickoff event discussing the importance of civic participation and civic dialogue is planned for Tuesday Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. in Sever 113.

Panel discussions on "Rape and Sexual Assault at Harvard," "Self-Segregation at Harvard," and "Where does God fit in at Harvard?" will be held on Nov. 29.

Driskell's initiative has not been without controversy. Kirkland representative Adam M. Johnson '02 and council treasurer Justin A. Barkley '02 voted against a bill that allocated $100 for event publicity.

"I don't think it's worth $100," Johnson said at the time. "There's plenty of dialogue on campus already. There's other things we should be spending our time and money on."

Smith dismisses any concerns that the council does not wholeheartedly support the upcoming dialogue.

"Everything that goes up in the council is debated fiercely, but if it's something worthwhile, it goes through in the end," Smith said. "["Days of Dialogue"] was overwhelmingly approved."