Debates, Discussions, and Lessons Part of Oakland University’s Center for Civic Engagement Mission
(Elizabeth Schanz, July 29, 2022)
Rochester, MI – Oakland University’s Center for Civic Engagement has been a space within the OU community initiating non-partisan conversations about important issues and public policy for the past five years. The center places themselves as a “convener for conversation” for multiple aspects that impact individuals’ lives – promoting research, voter registration drives, encouraging volunteering, internships and experiential learning.
They also host discussions, like the Feb. 2020 visit with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Congressperson Elissa Slotkin. They also featured a discussion with “Better Angels,” a nonprofit that brings even proportions of liberals and conservatives – what they call blues and reds – to do trainings on having better conversations. Most recently they hosted a Congressional candidate debate. Over 2,000 people have participated in events over the past year, both online and in person.
Oakland University professor and director of the Center for Civic Engagement David Dulio expressed that with the center’s primary goal to create a space of tough conversations allows people with multiple perspectives to come together in respectful discussions. He hopes that the center will allow people to develop their own ideas in the future.
Dulio said, “One of the things we want to do is model good behavior so that you can confront these tough issues and confront them in a meaningful and respectful way.”
However, discussions are only a portion of what the center’s goal is. Dulio also expressed that many people lack basic civic literacy and the need to help individuals gain more knowledge to better engage with politics.
He noted an exercise he did with his students where he gave them a couple questions from the United States Citizenship test to gauge their knowledge. Shockingly, he found that 60 percent of his students in that class would not have passed to become citizens. That’s why efforts towards civic literacy are so important. He wants individuals to learn to make an impact in their communities.
Dulio encourages individuals to engage in information beyond social media, and putting their own prior beliefs in perspective, in creating a more well rounded and truthful perspective of the world around them.
“It’s about consuming information from multiple sources,” Dulio stated, “ Take this Primary. It’s not just the candidates and their advertisements, it’s not just the candidates and their websites, and good God not just Twitter or some other social media platform.”
The future of the Center for Civic Engagement is continuing to develop, with the future being decided by those who step up to get involved. Everyone is welcome to get involved; it’s not limited to students. Learn more at https://oakland.edu/cce/