Students across the political spectrum were invited to attend a Political Speed Dating session on Thursday in the Ceddia Union Building (CUB) Multipurpose room (MPR).
Allison Dagnes, SU professor of political science, asked students to reach across the political aisle and get to know someone with different viewpoints. Students were also requested to find similar interests and hobbies, such as favorite movie, food or music.
According to Dagnes, political speed dating is about more than just debating. The goal is for students to meet people who see things differently than they do. Dagnes shared her concerns that too many students today stick to crowds that have similar political viewpoints. “We have a lot more in common and there are more reasons to get to know somebody than finding something disagreeable,” she said, “It is okay to talk, and it is okay to disagree.”
Students were tasked with sitting across from someone who was on the opposite side of the political spectrum. They then picked from a list of currently hot-button issues, such as reproductive rights, immigration, income inequality and foreign policy. The instructions were clear that it was not a debate and students were not there to challenge each other, but rather to listen to what others think and why they think that way.
After having five minutes of political discussion, students were encouraged to find things they both agreed upon. For political science major Joey D’Ambrosio, it was getting to meet two fellow fans of the Philadelphia Eagles.
It is hard to ignore how polarized politics in the United States is right now, especially as a young adult. Getting to meet others and understand their political views adds to the diversity of Shippensburg University. As senator for student government Ali Sina Sharifi puts it, political speed dating “adds to diversity and leads us to changing the country’s situation.” According to Dagnes, who has held this event for the past four years, “I hear about it every year from students who learn things from college that they’ve never heard before. To me, that is what diversity is all about.”
Dagnes recounted a specific conversation from a past political speed dating session where a student from Somalia and a student born and raised in Pennsylvania got to become friends. The student from Pennsylvania was initially against immigration and had never met an immigrant before. The two were able to move past their political opinions and teach each other about life. Moments like that are incredibly important for Shippensburg University and the country at large.
Thursday’s event was not the last. Dagnes plans to hold political speed dating nights every year to foster communication between students of differing viewpoints. “I hope that we do this every year, a couple times a year,” she said, “Students really like it; they get to meet people. It is a good way to sit across from somebody and get to talk to them.” Getting to meet new people from beyond our political spheres creates a healthier campus for all.