What began during the fall 2016 semester as a way to start discussions about difference and identity continues March 13-17 with #VTUnfinished Part Two for Principles of Community Week.

The events during this week are opportunities to revisit conversations started with last semester’s #VTUnfinished initiative. Participants are encouraged to learn about each other and to communicate respectfully across differences, while also discovering some unexpected similarities in the process.

In a Feb. 26 letter, President Tim Sands encouraged the university community to attend #civilityVT Let’s Talk, on March 15 at 2:30 p.m. in the Burruss Hall foyer. The sessions will occur every Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. until May 3.

Hosted by the Division of Student Affairs in collaboration with the Office for Inclusion and Diversity, these weekly talks will encourage civil discourse and active listening on a variety of different topics.

Todd Schenk, an assistant professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ School of Public and International Affairs, developed the program for these conversations. Schenk, who has a background in mediation and facilitation, organized National Frenemies Day on Nov. 9, the day after the 2016 election, for participants to reconnect with friends and acquaintances with differing views.

“Unfortunately, many of us tend to associate with people that are and think like us most of the time, and thus rarely have the opportunity to engage in a genuine conversation with others that feel very differently than we do on important matters,” Schenk said, adding that we "often avoid people that are different."

According to Schenk, each of the #civilityVT Let’s Talk sessions will focus on a specific topic, such as proposals to ban smoking on campus or the place of immigrants and non-citizens in this community.

“While we expect some repeat participants, we hope to attract students each time that hold strong, and very different, opinions on the issues,” Schenk said. “We will provide them with some relatively basic guidelines and ground rules on how they can have a civil conversation and then send them off paired with counterparts that have very different opinions.”

Through such conversations, participants will learn how to instigate and engage in civil discourse that could ultimately lead to consensus or compromise on how the community can move forward on certain issues.

Additional events for the week include:

  • The Conversation Salon will occur on March 13 at noon. Hosted by the Diversity Development Institute, the salon is an opportunity to build community through meaningful conversations about the Principles of Community using the Ask Big Questions model.
  • The Community Narratives Project is from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on March 14 at the Art and Architecture Library in Cowgill Hall. This photo-narrative project — curated by the College of Architecture and Urban Studies Diversity Committee — showcases portraits and statements about what diversity means to members of the Virginia Tech community.
  • The College of Science’s Undergrad Diversity Event provides underrepresented minority students with information about undergraduate research opportunities on campus. The event will be held on March 16 from 4 .m. to 6 p.m. in the South Atrium of Hahn Hall.
  • All are welcome to write messages in the spirit of inclusion and solidarity on the civility wall, which will be on display outside of Newman Library starting on March 16. Additional locations will be Dietrick and outside the Intercultural Engagement Center in Squires Student Center.
  • Digging in the Crates on March 16 kicks off Hip-Hop Appreciation Weekend. Come learn about hip-hop’s relevance in academia and enjoy spoken word, dance, and DJ performances. The weekend continues with a Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship Panel, followed by a Peter $un concert and a '90s themed hip-hop party on March 17. Hip-Hop Appreciation Weekend is a collaboration among University Libraries, Africana Studies, Intercultural Engagement Center, Black Cultural Center, VT Expressions, Students of Hip-Hop Legacy, VT Bboy/Bgirl (Breakdance) Club, WUVT 90.7 FM, the College of Architecture and Urban Studies Diversity Committee, Flowmigos, GloFleaux, SoHHL, and the Women’s Center.
  • The Muslim Student Association, FreeThinkers at VT, Adventist Christian Fellowship, Hillel at VT, and the Ahul-Bayt Student Association are co-hosting a free interfaith intercultural dinner at 6 p.m. on March 17 at the Hillel Center on 710 Tom’s Creek Road.

More information can be found on the InclusiveVT website for Principles of Community Week.

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