UB DifCon Series highlights equity and inclusion

Five debates aim to create critical discussions on campus

The Spectrum

UB faculty, staff and students are coming together to discuss their cultural beliefs and political differences.

This week, a series of discussions called Difcon is centered around “Owning Our Differences.” The series will take place from April 17-21 at 12 p.m. each day. All discussions will be held in the Intercultural and Diversity Center, aside from Wednesday’s discussion which will take place in 104 O’Brian Hall.

The DifCon series, a name that stems from the phrase “difficult conversations,” is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Equity & Inclusion and is meant to provide the UB community with opportunities to speak about critical community and world issues.

“These conversations acknowledge opposing viewpoints and also seek to find common ground in those viewpoints,” Teresa Miller, DifCon moderator and vice provost for Equity & Inclusion said.“Our goal is to have these conversations across the university.”

The five debate topics include:

Monday: “Heritage Month celebrations are essential to an inclusive, culturally competent university community here at UB.”

Tuesday: “Student athletes are free to express their political beliefs both on and off the field.”

Wednesday: “Hate speech is fundamentally incompatible with an inclusive campus climate.”

Thursday: “Statues, flags, and other icons that serve as reminders of historical legacies of injustice should be removed from college and university campuses.”

Friday: “Campus judicial systems effectively balance the interests of both those who report sexual assault and those who are accused of it.”

Miller said the topics were chosen to make them heard on a “larger level.”

“They’re maybe not being heard across different segments of the community and differences of viewpoint,” Miller said.“So it’s an attempt to elevate the conversations that are already taking place and shining some light to expose more people to them.”

On Monday, the proposition centered on Heritage Month celebrations being an integral part to the campus environment.

Some panelists spoke about how to make celebrations not all about “food, fun, and fashion” but rather a “deeper dive" into understanding culturally-relative issues.

Danielle Vazquez, a first year MBA and MPH student said the event gave her a more “enlightening reason” for why universities should create more inclusive environments.

“My blackness or my Latina culture is not just specific for a month but for a whole year, my whole lifespan,” Vazquez said. “What I took away from this is maybe I need to rethink it’s not just about a certain month celebrating my culture but it’s about celebrating my culture throughout the year and communicating that through my lab-mates.”

Deidree Golbourne, a senior African and African American studies major, was one of the four panelists and a first time participant in the series. She called DifCon a “necessary agent” in understanding how UB can be “more inclusive.”

“I think DifCon being led by the Equity & Inclusion department shows that administratively, the university is trying to make a really large front,” Golbourne said. “Not only by addressing certain issues but also giving a space for certain students, faculty, and staff to talk about a variety of things that impact them every single day.”

Benjamin Blanchet is a co senior arts editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com