Georgetown faculty, staff, and students explored the best ways to engage in the work of reconciliation across campus and throughout the world during the 2018 Doyle Symposium on “Teaching and Learning for Reconciliation” held on March 16.
On a panel moderated by Berkley Center Faculty Fellow Majorie Mandelstam Balzer, participants addressed the university’s reconciliation efforts related to its history with slavery and discussed various approaches to confronting ongoing forms of racism, xenophobia, and sexism and other forms of gender discrimination that persist around the globe.
"We have distinct and crucial tasks as educators in addressing the substantial challenges to help students equip themselves with the skills of critical thinking and dialogue with others in more sophisticated ways that can build a peaceful and just and reconciled community," said executive director of the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) Edward Maloney during his introductory remarks.
The Doyle Symposium is an annual event sponsored by the Doyle Engaging Difference Program and co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and CNDLS. In addition to supporting the annual symposium, the Doyle Engaging Difference Program sponsors faculty and student initiatives, including the Doyle Undergraduate Fellows Program, which encourages students to conduct original research and participate in events and service projects that explore the broader implications of cultural and religious diversity.
For panelist Deirdre Jonese Austin (SFS'19), a Doyle Undergraduate Fellow from Charlotte, North Carolina, the process of reconciliation must begin internally. "I've come to understand reconciliation as recreating relationships between God and oneself, and then within oneself."
Father Ludovic Lado, S.J., a visiting associate professor of the Walsh School of Foreign Service, also spoke of the spiritual and healing nature of reconciliation, saying, "Reconciliation, for me, basically means repairing and restoring broken human relationships."
"The Truth and Reconciliation Commission [of post-Apartheid South Africa] emphasized healing communal relationships. Instead of trying to identify what's wrong and what's right, the emphasis was on reestablishing broken relationships to keep the community going.”
Ritual and Reconciliation
Dr. Cheryl Suzack, associate professor of English and Indigenous Studies at University of Toronto, brought up another method of reconciliation in action by highlighting Canada's recent work through ceremonies and symbolic rituals.
"One of the most important aspects of the [Canadian] national events was the ceremonial fire. It included witnesses, it included the burning of a sacred flame. All things that would be cast away were put into the fire and burned as a sacred offering of grief and trauma," said Dr. Suzack.
She also mentioned the importance of forging partnerships as part of reconciliation. "One of the goals of reconciliation should be coalitions, reaching out and working with other communities."
More to Be Done
"An apology was the first step," expressed Austin when talking about the issues of slavery within Georgetown University's history. "But you have to go beyond an apology."
Austin noted that through conversations with the decedents of the slaves sold by Georgetown, the University has worked to offer special enrollment and financial benefits to these individuals, but she feels more should be done for these and other African-American students on campus.
Andrew Walker, program associate of the Office of the Vice President of Global Engagement, also spoke of some of the challenges Georgetown has faced when trying to enact the HeForShe initiative, which strives to get all members of society to stand up gender equality.
"One of the really big challenges with the student engagement aspect of this is really just deciding what HeForShe is," said Walker. “We're really trying to figure out how to frame this issue in a way that is inclusive while also acknowledging that you do need to engage men and boys to be advocates for gender equality."
Walker expressed his pride in the dialogue the university has started around gender equality, but added, "There's so much work and so many things to still be done.”