By Mallika Mitra
Maddie Hume ‘16, Alex Werder ‘15, and Amanda Johnson ‘17 have started TalK-Zoo, a new student-run initiative on campus.
“We’ve noticed that K has this political culture and general social issue culture that tends to only talk about the left side of American issues or politics,” Hume said. “There’s not a lot of productive discourse that [encompasses] both sides.”
This new program on campus, which was inspired by Intelligence Squared and is looking to be run as a student organization in the future, plans to bring in expert panelists to talk about current issues to make respectful and fact-based debate so people can form their own well-informed arguments and learn how to talk to people with opposing views.
Hume explained that Werder, who is currently studying abroad, approached her with this idea and that she and Johnson applied to the Innovation Fund with the project.
Although they did not receive funding, they decided to continue with the initiative. They believe that K does students a disservice by having such a one-minded campus in terms of how it views social issues.
“You can’t interact with people effectively without seeing where they’re coming from,” Hume said.
The group plans to bring in speakers for several debates throughout the school year, as well as have meetings which will help students develop their skills in talking about issues that they feel are important.
According to Hume, the founders of this group saw a gap on campus and wanted to fill it in a way that would be “productive and not silencing and not over glorifying one point or the other.”
TalK-Zoo is not affiliated with either political party group on campus, but it does encourage members of those groups to attend meetings because it is a good space for collaboration.
The first debate, entitled “Raise the Wage?” will be held Wednesday, April 23, at 7:00 p.m. in the Olmsted Room. This Oxford-style debate will include Michigan United Organizer Meredith Quinlan and Professor of Economics at Michgan State University Dr. Dale Belman for the motion, and Kalamazoo County Commissioner Brant Iden and Professor of Economics at Western Michigan University Dr. Bill Kern against the motion.
The event will allow students to listen to both sides of the debate and ask questions. The debate, which was funded by OSI and organized by Hume and Johnson will not take a stance on the argument, but intends to present both sides equally.