Dialogue, civil discourse focus of 2003-2004 theme year at WFU

Fostering Dialogue logoWith the recent breakdown of diplomacy and dialogue among the nations of the world, organizers of a theme year celebration at Wake Forest University have made plans to turn the focus for the 2003-2004 academic year to the exploration of how free people with passionate interests and beliefs can communicate openly without turning dialogue into discord.

A series of speakers, events and performances planned for next academic year have been organized around the theme “Fostering Dialogue: Civil Discourse in an Academic Community.”

The year will include a special seminar through the university’s communication department focused on dialogue and production of film or video documentaries. In addition, the year will include a student dialogue program with senior university administrators, a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, a Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner Day, a film series and several other events and activities.

“The theme is a call to the Wake Forest community to recognize the university as a place where the free exchange of ideas is celebrated,” said Claire Hammond, professor of economics and co-chair of the year’s planning committee. “Free speech, open debate and civil discourse are needed now more than ever. As Americans help build a democratic Iraq, come to terms with issues of terrorism and security, and seek ways to work within the international community, the art and practice of dialogue will be crucial. We owe it to our students to teach them and show them both how to express their ideas and how to listen, criticize and evaluate the ideas of others.”

Craig Fansler, a library technician at the university’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library, designed the logo for the 2003-2004 theme year, and the design was selected from a pool of about 10 entries in a campus-wide logo design contest. The winning logo, which will become familiar to most members of the campus community next academic year, features the profiles of two heads with olive branches extending from their mouths and growing together in front of the figures.

“The idea of fostering dialogue is to promote growth and make something good happen,” Fansler said. “The vines represent growth occurring as a result of fruitful dialogue. The theme is extremely appropriate for the times in which we live. Fruitful dialogue can resolve a host of evils — between individuals, on campus and in the world.”

The theme year begins with the return of students in August and the first meeting of award-winning filmmaker Brett Ingram’s fall communication seminar “Dialogue and Documentary.” Students in the class will learn about the theory, aesthetics and practice of producing non-fiction works on film or video by producing their own documentary projects that explore the theme “Fostering Dialogue.”

Ingram, who joins the university’s communication department in the fall, will produce his own documentary, focusing his camera on the students in the seminar as they experience dialogue during the production of their films through interactions with community agencies, university programs and one another. The documentary, which has been commissioned by the theme year committee, will be shown at the end of the academic year.

A theme year kick-off event scheduled for September will bring Wake Forest students and senior administrators together for a program of dialogue that will culminate with a campus-wide “agora” on Magnolia Court. An agora is the traditional marketplace of the Greeks, and the campus-wide event will serve as a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas. Thomas K. Hearn Jr., university president; William C. Gordon, university provost; Sandra Boyette, vice president for University Advancement; and Paul Escott, dean of the College, have agreed to participate in the event.

In November, award-winning playwright Tony Kushner will visit campus to deliver a lecture in Brendle Recital Hall. Kushner will also speak to a class in the theatre department, and his play “Angels In America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes” will be performed on campus during the fall semester. The program is sponsored by the theme year committee, the theatre department and the journalism program.

The theme year committee, which is made up of students, staff and faculty, organized most of the events for the yearlong celebration, but many members of the campus community got involved by applying for more than $17,000 in mini-grants to put on exhibitions, lectures and conferences centered around the theme of dialogue.

A few of the programs that received mini-grants and will be held during the upcoming academic year include a series of two lectures by game theorist and political analyst Steven Brams, author of “The Win-Win Solution;” a student-planned “Diversity Week” and a lecture on diversification efforts on college campuses by Tim Wise, senior advisor at the Race Relations Institute of Fisk University in Nashville; a military science guest speaker program; a community deliberation program sponsored by the Democracy Fellows; and two film series, including a film and discussion forum “Gender, Identity and Social Change Through Moroccan Film”; and a separate celebration of Asian and Asian/American film.

The theme year will conclude in the spring of 2004 with two events scheduled to coincide with the annual Wake Forest University Press Irish Festival. The events bring to campus several noted Irish historical and literary scholars who will discuss the path ahead for the peace process in Ireland.

A celebration on University Plaza (main Quad) is planned for the end of the year that draws on London’s tradition of allowing speakers to express their views in a public forum. The Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner Day will give participants a chance to climb up on a soapbox and express their views about a number of topics.

Event dates and other details have been set for the majority of the year, however, some dates will be determined later. A full schedule of events and additional information about the upcoming theme year is located on the Wake Forest University Web site.

Each year, a series of events is developed around a common theme as part of Wake Forest’s Undergraduate Plan, an initiative to enhance undergraduate education. “Fostering Dialogue: Civil Discourse in an Academic Community” is the eighth theme year. Previously, the university celebrated the Year of Health and Medicine (2002-2003), the Year of Unity and Hope: Pro Humanitate at Work (2001-2002) and the Year of Ethics and Honor (2000-2001).

Categories: Community, Events, University Announcement