Beginning today, a new discussion initiative called World Matters, designed to help students explore and reflect on national and international current events outside of an academic setting and without a planned agenda, will meet every Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Ladd House. The discussion is facilitated by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and sponsored by Bowdoin Student Government (BSG).
Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Eduardo Pazos, who will facilitate the discussions, describes World Matters as an opportunity for reflection about topics that may not have a designated space on campus.
“I think there are a lot of topics out there that are very worthy of our time and our discussion. There are a lot of passions out there in our student body. I would love for our students to come in to talk about those things,” Pazos said. “This is a perfect opportunity to highlight those and to bring those to the attention of our student body and our faculty and our staff.”
The weekly discussions offer a consistent time and place for students, faculty and staff to gather and share their thoughts without a planned agenda. While in the past BSG and other organizations have sponsored events or discussions in response to major events, the World Matters discussions are not limited to large and recent events.
“The idea for World Matters is having a consistent space that’s open the same time every week at the same place to talk about things that are going on in the world that might often get overlooked on campus,” said BSG Liaison to the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Carly Berlin ’18.
Pazos noted that many students do not have an academic space to discuss current events.
“If you’re not taking a global affairs class or a sociology class or a class that kind of deals with global affairs—you might be taking a couple English classes and a couple math classes—and then there’s really no room for you to talk about the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar … [or] the fact that South Africa is experiencing a severe drought and they’re about to run out of water,” Pazos said.
The agenda-less aspect of World Matters also distinguishes the new initiative from Common Hour. Common Hour, also scheduled on Friday afternoons, is a weekly one-hour period when no classes or meetings may be scheduled in order to allow students, faculty and staff to “engage in the ideas of speakers and presentations of artists, and with each other in discussion of shared interests and concerns,” according to Common Hour’s statement of purpose. Common Hour lectures typically revolve around a specific topic.
According to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, World Matters is intended to be “something altogether different” and is not replacing Common Hour, which has dwindled in popularity in recent years.
Overall, Pazos emphasized the opportunity World Matters provides for learning from one another outside of the classroom and mainstream media coverage.
“There are so many … other affairs that simply don’t get the attention that you and I [may] think that they deserve,” he said. “So this is a great opportunity for us to bring those to the community, to bring those to light and to educate one another and to hear one another about things that matter to us.”