Forum discusses culture clashes

For centuries, the Middle East has been a site of conflict over land sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews. Past struggles are remembered as new clashes of cultural differences arise.

In the midst of this controversy, Americans try to comprehend the issues faced by the Middle East and what role America should play in the disputes. The College of Arts and Sciences and the Northern Kentucky University Friends of Steely Library joined to provide an informational forum so students, faculty and community members could discuss the issues developing overseas.

A panel of seven NKU professors met in Otto Budig Theater Oct. 24 to cover multiple subjects contributing to the conflicts in the Middle East.

According to Kevin Corcoran, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the goal of the discussion panel was to clarify some of the issues, including everything from politics and religion to colonization and history, by bringing together scholars with relevant expertise with members of the university community and general public.

“We want to provide a forum for our community to discuss this complex issue,” Corcoran said. Corcoran stressed the importance of utilizing NKU professors who have experience in Middle Eastern studies. Members of the panel gave approximately a seven-minute overview of how his areas of expertise related to the current conflicts in the Middle East.

Not all who attended the talk felt the set-up allowed for enough debate on the subjects discussed during the faculty presentations. “The idea (for the forum) was good, but people took advantage of it,” said Bryson Wilson, senior international studies major. “(The panelists) didn’t answer the questions but preached their own ideas.”

Senior political science major Shaun Fugate agreed. “(The panel) should have more people on opposing sides. It’s more entertaining, more people show up and people would learn more.”

During the break following the presnetations, a majority of students left. According to some students that did stick around, this is disturbing.

“(College) students will never be concerned with these issues – they don’t have interest,” Fugate said. “My wife knows more about what’s happening between Jessica and Nick than what’s happening in the rest of the world.”

The remaining crowd was quick to ask questions of the panel for the remaining hour.

Overall, Corcoran was pleased with the forum and expressed interest in similar discussions in the future.

“This is the first of what we hope is a series,” he said.

The panel discussion, according to Corcoran, lines up with the university’s vision to maximize civic engagement by making discussions open to local residents.