Joe Adu and Szymon Rus want to get people talking?about anything.
The two seniors have chartered a club on campus called Stuff 101. While the club's title suggests a basic-level course, its mission is intense: Adu and Rus want Stuff 101 to be a place where students discuss diverse issues, with the ultimate goal of enhancing knowledge.
"People have these sorts of conversations all the time with their groups of friends," says Rus. "But we want to spread it out."
It was those conversations with friends that led Adu and Rus to create the group. When they were on an intramural soccer team together, they realized that the diversity of the team led to great discussions during post-game dinners.
"We want as many perspectives as possible because we want to learn," Adu says.
Adu and Rus say they will not set a limit on the topics that can be discussed. At the end of each meeting, they say, club members will nominate and vote on topics for the next meeting.
The topics could be hot-button issues like race or politics, Adu says, or less controversial subjects, like campus clubs. Either way, anyone interested is welcome.
"This is a politically neutral group," Adu says, noting that he wants to contrast with other campus events where a particular political point of view is put forth by organizers.
"We don't have an agenda," he says. "We want to just foster knowledge."
Stuff 101 will also encourage Brunswick residents to attend.
"We want as many perspectives as possible, because we want to learn," Adu says. "We can't just pretend that Bowdoin is a bubble."
Emphasizing the group's priority of dialogue, the founders say the club's first meeting will consist of a discussion about the club itself. Adu and Rus also say they want people to e-mail them with ideas about the club's direction, or let them know if they are interested in getting involved.
They expect the first meeting to be held during the first or second week of the spring semester. Since Bowdoin Student Government's Student Organizations Oversight Committee has approved the club as a Charter I organization, the group is eligible to receive student activity funds.
Adu and Rus say they will use funding to bring in experts, such as faculty members or people from outside the College, to provide background knowledge on issues that they will be discussing. They ultimately hope to expand their perspectives by providing a place for students to learn about issues through discussion while speaking with a new and diverse group of people.
They point to a spring 2004 incident in which racially charged statements were made at a nighttime event in Jack Magee's Pub and on posters distributed on campus the following morning.
"Issues like these may seem like isolated events," Adu says. "But they're views that exist on campus."
By providing a forum for people to speak about controversial issues, Adu and Rus say they hope that everyone in attendance will learn about each other's differences.
"People easily confuse this with a debate group," Adu says. "But that's not what this is."
"Let's just learn from each other," he says.