By Sean Callahan
On April 20, beginning at 7 p.m, SVC students Maria Arcara, Kevin Jackson, Kevin Martin, Randall Pawlowski, Nicholas Rega and Kaleb Wilson participated as panelists in a discussion on American Politics, titled “A House Divided.”
The conception of this event began in the fall of 2020 when members of the Benedictine Leadership Studies program considered hosting a student debate regarding the presidential election. However, challenges presented by COVID-19 delayed its implementation.
But the idea gained traction again this spring, when students Alexandra Gerstel, Vincent Lombardi, Jonathan Meilaender and Giovanni Scott formed a committee for the event. The result was a civil discussion on American politics and the future of the country, rather than a general debate on the 2020 presidential election.
Dr. Michael Krom, professor of philosophy, acted as moderator for the event. A student moderator was originally suggested, but the committee felt a faculty moderator would help the panel stay on track and add structure to the discussion. Krom said that although he does not follow politics closely, he has been involved in all the deliberations of the committee, so he was happy to help.
“The goal is to inform and build community, not enrage and dig trenches!” Krom said.
Krom said that once the committee agreed on the prompt for the panel, they sought out students who would represent a broad range of views and stand out as charitable discussion partners.
A House Divided opened on Zoom at 7 p.m. and quickly gained an audience of 40 people, composed of mostly students, but also including several members of the SVC faculty, staff and administration.
The discussion began with opening statements from each of the panelists. They stressed their views on the future of America using specific foundations, rather than their own political leanings, which were rarely mentioned throughout the event. For example, Pawlowski used natural law, order and his Catholic faith as guides for his statement on disorder in America, while fellow panelists Martin and Arcara emphasized the need for good discussion and common goals. Others spoke of America’s future with regard to institutions or concepts like political parties, systematic racism and new electoral systems.
However, despite the diversity of topics, all six panelists agreed that America needed civil discussion, unity and the ability to coexist with one another peacefully.
Krom then asked the panelists questions, some of which encouraged dialogue between them and others which were open-ended for whoever wished to answer.
Following the conclusion of Krom’s questioning, the floor opened for the Zoom audience to ask panelists their own questions.
The audience made inquiries regarding solutions to political divisiveness, the extent to which educational institutions are politically influenced, and whether a multi-party or other electoral system is an achievable solution to divisive politics in America.
Several of the students who asked questions, especially near the conclusion of the event at 8:20 p.m., praised the panelists and the outcome of the event as a whole. Krom himself was very impressed.
“It was a pleasure to moderate the discussion and to see our students express their views so eloquently and with a willingness to listen to one another,” Krom said.