The theme of Brenau’s 2016 Student Leadership Retreat is Conversations, Not Confrontation. Amanda Lammers, vice president of Student Services, coined this phrase while developing a diversity task force at Brenau. She has also designated a student-led Social Climate Committee.
After this summer’s tragic police shooting in Dallas, Lammers addressed the issues on her Facebook page. She wrote, “For the majority of the past 48 hours, I have been contemplating how to be the change I wish to see in this world. Brenau Facebook friends, know the wheels are turning, and do not mistake social media silence for inaction.” After observing students’ social media conversations over the summer she commented, “We need more conversations, not confrontations.”
Last summer, proactive discussions at the annual Student Leadership Retreat on topics including legalizing gay marriage, the Confederate flag, the Emmanuel Church shootings and police brutality proved fruitful. The discussions gave students a safe place to share their feelings and respectfully discuss multiple sides of issues. Lammers stressed, “People don’t learn from confrontation, and when we are confronted, we often go on the defensive and shut down. Conversations can bring understanding and change. The goal is to create an educational environment where true change might actually happen.”
Student Services and the Student Social Climate Committee have finalized plans for the 2016 Student Leadership Retreat, where these conversations will continue. Lammers penned a heartfelt letter to student leaders about this summer’s unrest, and invited them to respond openly, candidly and respectfully. She reminds us, “Their peer-to-peer voice is where the power resides. I want to see students leave the university understanding humanity better than they did when came.”