Symposium Day is doing better

Alex McLean

I wrote about Symposium Day each term last year. I still have all sorts of negative opinions about the event (see Augustana risks letting liberal arts fail), but I want to attempt to be a little more positive and purposeful about my efforts this time. I feel that Symposium Day is what makes a liberal arts institution so great, but Augustana does it wrong. I do not intend to attack Symposium Day, only to postulate whether the day is useful or not.
This term’s Symposium Day was titled “Relationships,” and I really appreciate that this term, at least, they tried to steer the conversation away from blaming white people (which they did last Fall Term and Winter Term) and more towards helpful discussion of interesting elements. Previous Symposium Days have been a considerable amount of liberalism and no other viewpoints. I found this to be extremely frustrating, but not surprising. This campus is generally liberal, so it would seem to be that no one would put on a conservative presentation. The lack of certain viewpoints, however, make enjoying Symposium Day very difficult for the silent conservatives on this campus. I know that myself and the members of the conservative movement go from ignoring Symposium Day events to actively disliking and hating them. I’ve written pieces for the Observer where I actively denounced the events. However, I believe Symposium Day can be reformed to become a day where every person on the political and socioeconomic scale can have their viewpoints represented.
If we could actively avoid attacking other individuals in the Symposium Day events and instead decided to focus on discussion, these events might be more regularly attended and even looked forward to. I will, however, credit Augustana on this term’s Symposium Day. This term focused on less ad hominem and more on interesting concepts in the loosely related realm of “Relationships.” When the school decided not to focus on “why white people suck,” and more on “what’s a cool idea to talk about,” people attended and did not feel lectured at.
I believe that if Augie continued with Symposium Day in a way which didn’t attack students whose only crime is being white, many more students would come to and enjoy future Symposium Days. However, with Winter Term’s theme always being “Privilege,” I find that avoiding attacking one another will be extremely difficult.