Coming Together: Post-election forum aims to bridge partisan divides

1st November 2020

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–What will happen on November 3?

Nobody knows.

But regardless of the outcome of this year’s election, which may or may not be immediately clear, people of all political orientations will resume their lives on November 4.

For most, that means working, shopping, learning and living alongside those with differing or even opposing views and visions.

Experience suggests that amid unprecedented divisiveness and a rancorous campaign, this may not be easy.

According to the most recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, three out of four Americans are concerned about the possibility of violence on election day.

To help the IU Southeast community navigate this moment constructively, Dr. Margot Morgan, assistant professor of political science, will host Coming Together, an online post-election round-table conversation and public forum.

The event takes place on November 4, from 6-8 p.m. on Zoom (861 578 074 97).

“The purpose of the event is to unite as a community in a tumultuous time by sharing knowledge, discussing uncertainty and extending our empathy to one another,” Morgan said.

Faculty speakers will put the election in a historical context and demystify the electoral process, helping to ease anxieties amid uncertainty.

  • Dr. Rhonda Wrzenski, associate professor of political science, will discuss the evidence that exists about voter fraud, both in general and in terms of this election.
  • Dr. Joe Wert, professor of political science, will talk about historical precedent for contested elections, and if necessary, discuss the Constitution and the Court’s role in determining the winners of presidential contests.
  • Dr. Michael Day, director of counseling and psychological services, will normalize the feelings of anxiety and depression regarding the election and the topics surrounding it.
  • Dr. Adam Maksl, associate professor of journalism & media, will discuss the role of the media in the election and answer any questions people might have about the power and responsibility of the media.

Morgan designed Coming Together in her capacity as IU Southeat’s campus coordinator for the American Democracy Project, an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

Having experienced first-hand the rifts on campus that mirrored those in society following the 2016 election, Morgan has launched an event–the first of many, she hopes–to cultivate dialogue, understanding and healing.

“This event is designed to bring everyone together and say, ‘No matter who wins, we are a united community and we will be there for one another.  There are very different beliefs among us, but we will not let those define us,'” Morgan said.

Coming Together is envisioned as a meeting of hearts and minds, welcoming the entire campus community, as well as anyone else who desires to share personal experiences, hopes, anxieties and desires for clarity.

For Morgan, the event addresses not only the moment, but the larger vision of campus comity.

“We should want more for our community than just having students with different ideologies to be able to ‘coexist’ on our campus,” Morgan said. “We should aim higher, for shared respect and empathy.”

Dr. Kelly Ryan, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and herself a historian, is hopeful that the election will bring the nation and the campus together.

“IU Southeast as a long history of respectful and passionate civil discourse among faculty, staff and students of varying political persuasions,” Ryan aid. “Events like that hosted by Dr. Morgan are important to our campus culture of debate and dialogue, but also in creating belongingness and shared knowledges.”

Coming Together is sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs, the Office of Community Engagement, the IU Southeast Schools of Arts and Letters, Business, Education, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences, and the American Democracy Project.

Homepage photo by Prawny from Pixabay.

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