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The Difficult Conversation

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Student-made documentary examines race relations at the University of Delaware


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Several hundred members of the University of Delaware community gathered on The Green on September 23, 2015, for a candid dialogue in the wake of racial concerns.

Last fall 2015, University of Delaware students in Dr. Lindsay Hoffman's National Agenda: Race in America class had the opportunity to explore the contentious topic of race relations in the United States. A group of students from the class filmed and edited The Difficult Conversation, a documentary discussing race relations at the University of Delaware. Jordan McBride, Tia Hill, Russel Kogan, Branham Menard, Georgina Class-Peters, and Dana Hufe, compiled recorded interviews, local and national media footage, and UD-published demographic data to produce the film. UD's Diversity Initiative now features The Difficult Conversation on its home page.

According to Dr. Hoffman, a communication professor and CPC associate director, it's more important than ever to tackle the crucial issues surrounding race, equality, and identity as Millennials enter American society as the most diverse generation in history. This generational shift occurs amidst public outcry; the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner—among others—have forced Americans to engage in a dialogue about the context and history of race in America. The racially motivated mass shooting that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015 also generated debate about racial issues, from the role of modern hate groups to the Confederate flag. Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Delaware have voiced their dismay by participating in public events such as marches and last December's "Die-In" at Trabant Student Center. "Black lives matter" has been a trending topic on Twitter since 2015. Many agree that the time to talk about race—especially as it relates to African Americans—is long overdue.

Throughout the course, students engaged with nationally known journalists, a comedian, authors, and politicians; conducted quantitative and qualitative research to examine the racial climate on campus; and documented how race plays a role at UD through surveys, recorded interviews, and ethnographic methods. The National Agenda course, which explores a different topic each year, is open to communication majors, political communication minors, juniors, and seniors. It is offered in the fall as part of the larger annual National Agenda fall speaker series presented by the Center for Political Communication.

The National Agenda: Race in America series was sponsored by the William P. Frank Foundation, UD's Center for the Study of Diversity, and UD's Office of the Provost. Race in America was the fifth year of the National Agenda series and course, and the first to not focus solely on electoral/political topics. Since 2010, the National Agenda Speaker Program has featured prominent speakers including Karl Rove, David Plouffe, Candy Crowley, Chris Christie, and Joe Biden. It has featured lively discussions on everything from Congressional elections to Delaware's role in the nation. All previous programs have been recorded and can be found the CPC's events page.

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