Students from The Undiscussed, a campus group that holds sustained dialogues to explore issues, invited a pro-life speaker to campus Nov. 13. A week later, they invited two pro-choice advocates to present the other side of the abortion debate.
Following these two talks, The Undiscussed held a facilitated discussion for any student who wanted to hash out the viewpoints they had heard from the activists.
Quinn Rhi ’15, who co-leads The Undiscussed with David Silverman ’15, said her group organized the abortion events to help open the campus up to a range of views and ideologies. “It’s important to create spaces where people [can] have respectful conversations,” she said. She added that this is particularly important if young people are to free this country from its polarized politics.
With support from Allen Delong, director of Student Activities, and with funding from the Student Activities Funding Committee, the Undiscussed first invited Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. Hawkins’ talk was followed by a lecture from Samaa Abdurraqib and Oamshri Amarasingham, who both work with Maine’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Before joining the ACLU, Abdurraqib was a visiting professor of gender and women’s studies at Bowdoin.
Both Rhi and Silverman said they didn’t expect the abortion talks or the subsequent facilitated discussion to cause students to do an about-face and suddenly switch sides. Rather, Silverman said that after listening to the speakers and mulling over the issue with his peers, he gained more knowledge about abortion and the arguments around it. “I absolutely engaged with the issue,” he said. “It was a great learning opportunity.”
The experience also reaffirmed for Silverman that he should not “take for granted that the views I have, or that the people around me have, are absolutely right,” he said.
For Rhi, the experience reinforced the value of listening. “My main takeaway is that it’s always healthy to reexamine your own beliefs,” she said. “It’s something I’d like to carry with me way beyond Bowdoin.” She then quoted a line someone once told her that the best way to be a listener is to listen as if you are wrong.
Silverman and Rhi said they would like The Undiscussed to continue the tradition of inviting speakers to campus with opposing views on controversial issues, such as, for instance, gun control. “We would like to see younger campus leaders take this up,” Rhi said.