Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Lecture to promore overcoming apathy

While college professors have ample time to discuss chemistry or economics in class, not all receive the opportunity to speak to students exclusively about deeper issues. The Last Lecture series at The University of Alabama, hosted by the graduate school, invites one student-selected professor to answer the question, “If this were your last time to address a group of students, what would you say to them?”

This year’s winner is Robin Boylorn, assistant professor of interpersonal and intercultural communication and author of “Sweetwater: Black Women and Narratives of Resilience.” Boylorn’s lecture is titled “Overcoming (In)difference: Reflections on Empathy, Apathy and Diversity,” concentrating on issues like diversity and identity, which are dominant discussions in her classroom.

“Diversity is central to what I teach and how I teach,” she said via email. “I also feel that issues of diversity are generally silenced in everyday conversation, which makes them taboo when they should be common topics of discussion. If I were speaking to my students for the last time, I would urge them to keep these issues on their lips and not be afraid to engage and discuss difference.”

(See also “Professor receives national award for diversity“)

Boylorn said she hopes students will come away from her lecture understanding the importance of the differences seen in society.

“Simply put, that difference matters,” she said. “That racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism and ageism exist. That there is such a thing as privilege and that it is our social responsibility to use our privileges to help people in need and to respond to social injustice.”

She said diversity on college campuses is often considered unworthy of discussion, as many consider the current time a “post-racial, post-diversity moment.”

“I think people embrace the ‘colorblind’ perspective,” she said. “That if I don’t see it, or rather if I pretend I don’t see difference, then there is nothing to talk about. I hope to shed some light on some of the misconceptions about diversity and offer some strategies for talking about and across difference.”

Boylorn said students must leave the University and be citizens in a pluralistic society and world.

“Diversity is ubiquitous. It is everywhere all the time,” she said. “Just because you can’t see ‘diversity’ doesn’t mean it’s not there. So I don’t believe there is any place or space on campus where diversity is not relevant.”

Boylorn said she will focus on paying attention to reactions and responses to difference.

“I am excited about the opportunity to bring some of the conversations that happen behind closed classroom doors to a more public audience,” she said.

(See also “Student groups promote diversity“)

Boylorn was chosen out of six finalists by a committee of graduate and undergraduate students. Madeleine McKenzie, a member of the committee, said the selection process involved research, in-class observations, interviews and group discussion, all of which was taken into consideration to review all the candidates thoroughly.

“I think with everything that has happened on our campus in the past year, we as students could really benefit from Dr. Boylorn’s lecture ‘Overcoming (In)Difference: Reflections on Empathy, Apathy and Diversity,’” McKenzie said. “In one way or another, we have all seen the issues surrounding diversity in today’s society and on this campus. Her lecture will be extremely relevant and inspiring for everyone in attendance.”

Michelle Fuentes, another committee member, said it is her favorite committee to serve on because it gives her an opportunity to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of all the professors and instructors on campus.

“We really wanted a speaker this year who would speak to our students through meaningful content and an engaging presentation,” Fuentes said. “I’m sure she’ll deliver on both these points.”

The lecture will take place Wednesday at 6 p.m. in 159 Russell Hall. Previous lecturers have included Cassandra Simon, associate professor in the School of Social Work, in 2013 and Rick Bragg, professor of writing in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, in 2012.

(See also “Simon speaks the truth for Last Lecture“)

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