Political Speed Dating aims to spark civil discourse
Charlotte Edmonds | Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Students across the political spectrum will have the opportunity to meet Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. for the 3rd annual Political Speed Dating to engage in political discourse. Hosted by BridgeND, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to provide a platform of diverse political opinions, this event offers students the opportunity to express their ideologies within a relatively contained setting, the club’s officers said.
“We’re wanting to reach out to a variety of students from all different colleges to create a wide audience of political discussion from all different angles,” junior Christian McGrew, president of BridgeND, said.
At the event, students will be put into groups of four to five where they will be provided with a prompt and then allotted several minutes to discuss among themselves. These prompts will vary in range of social, economic, political and international scope, McGrew said.
Established in 2014, BridgeND preceded BridgeUSA, which was co-founded by Courtlyn Carpenter and Leigh Francia of the University of Colorado-Boulder, class of 2016 Notre Dame alumnus Patrick Kearney and current Notre Dame senior Roge Karma. BridgeUSA, which was then founded in the fall of 2015, now serves as an umbrella organization with chapters at multiple college campuses.
Karma said the purpose of BridgeND was to empower students and meet the needs of the campus. He cited political apathy as the root of Notre Dame’s disconnect.
In the past, Political Speed Dating has been held in the ballroom of LaFortune Student Center. But this year, it will take place in the Oak Room above South Dining Hall. Junior Kylie Ruscheinski, vice-president of BridgeND, said the group looks forward to seeing the effects the new venue has on the success of the event and hopes to build on the positive feedback it has received the past two years.
“A lot of studies have suggested that you’re more likely to have a respectful conversation in a formal setting where you have to look each other in the eyes,” she said. “It helps open up the possibility of sharing your beliefs.”
Karma said the main objective of Political Speed Dating is to define the foundation of responsible political discourse.
“With the right to voice my opinions comes the responsibility to actively listen and entertain others’ opinions,” he said.
Ruscheinski said the success of the local chapter — as well as the growth of the national organization — is proof of students’ desire for a place on campus where they can meet to discuss different viewpoints.
“Political Speed Dating is a great way to get your first step into that realm of discussing politics,”Ruscheinski said. “It’s set up to be less intimidating than sitting in a class lecture and speaking your mind.”
The event will allow students to engage in dialogue and seek solutions to important political issues, Karma said.
“Political Speed Dating is about creating a culture that encourages talking about controversial issues,” he said. “The community makes it feel comfortable to express your beliefs, and when people contribute their opinions, they’re actually benefitting those around them. The first step to coming up with solutions to these issues is to talk about them.”