2008-2009 Discussion Guide

Undiscussed Discussion Guide 2009

Question: How do our campus identities restrict us? How can we move past those restrictions and create a more inclusive and cohesive campus community?

Session One: Introductions (90 min)


· Participants to get to know each other

· Group comfort

· Introduction to general topic of identity

· Setting up focus on action and narrow topics by developing list and doing report card

  1. Introductions – [15 min]
    1. Hot Potato
      1. Toss around an object and have people say things about themselves every time they catch the object. When they throw it to somebody else, have them say the name of the person they throw it to.
      2. First time: Name, Year, Major, Hometown
      3. One thing that nobody in the group knows (undiscussed)
      4. Keep tossing the object and adding new facts until the mood feels relaxed.
    2. OR: Four Corners (where the name comes from, I don’t know)
      1. Create a list of prompts (something that I’m proud of, somebody who makes me laugh, something that I’m afraid of, a man and a woman who I love, something I want people to know about me, etc.) and have participants write out answers
      2. Go around and share answers.
      3. The trick with this is to make questions meaningful and revealing without being uncomfortable.
  2. Introduction to program [20 min]
    1. Explain facilitators, discussion format, goals of program (include action report)
    2. What do you want to get from this experience/why did you sign up?
    3. Create ground rules (post these every week)
  3. Probes: [25 min]
    1. What is identity?
    2. How do these identities connect people on campus? In society? How do they keep people apart?
    3. From where do we get our identities?
    4. What aspects of your identity do others notice most about you?
    5. Either here or next session: develop a working definition of identity and write it on a pad.
  4. List of Bowdoin Identities [10 min]
    1. How do we characterize people at Bowdoin?
    2. What groups do people belong to, and what does that say about them?
    3. What are some noticeable identity categories? What are some undiscussed ones?
  5. Self-evaluation [5 min]
    1. Report Card Option: Hand out report cards and envelopes and explain that this is something that nobody else will see. It’s a chance for them to think critically about their place at Bowdoin. At the end of the month, they’ll get it back.
    2. Note to Self Option: Have participants write a note to themselves about their place at Bowdoin and how they interact with others. Or whatever they want.
  6. Closure
    1. How did this session go?
    2. What should we change for next time?

Session Two (90 min): Our Bowdoin Experiences


· Move to a more discussion of identity based on personal experience

· Move discussion to a Bowdoin context

· Explore more explicitly ways that identities are restrictive

  1. Establish (or revisit and revise)  working definition of identity and write it on the big pad and have somebody write it on the group report sheet. [5 min]
  2. Probes: [80 min]
    1. Questions:
      1. What about your Bowdoin experience made you interested in the Undiscussed?
      2. Has your identity changed from high school to college? How? Why?
      3. What’s something at Bowdoin that took you completely by surprise?
      4. What is your campus identity? What groups are you a part of on campus? What do these connections mean in terms of your daily life? Why do you belong (shared life circumstances/experiences?)?
      5. What unofficial “groups” are you a part of on campus? What do these connections mean in terms of you daily life? How/why do you “belong” with this group?
      6. Does membership in these groups erect barriers? Do you feel you encounter other barriers?
      7. Are there barriers that are difficult to discuss? Which ones? Why?
      8. How does your identity affect how you interact with and perceive others? How others interact with and perceive you?
    2. Activities:
      1. Cringe Factor
        1. Before the session, generate a list of “cringe-inducing” thoughts that follow experiences. For example, walking by a table of African-American students in the dining hall and thinking, “Black people are always loud.”
        2. Read each scenario out afterwards and discuss it:
          1. On a scale of one to five, how much do you cringe at yourself after thinking this?
          2. Why?
          3. How does this reaction relate to your own identity?
          4. How much do thoughts like this affect how you perceive people in specific group?
        3. After reading your scenarios:
          1. Why do we cringe at these types of thoughts?
          2. Are there any cringe-inducing thoughts people might have about you?
          3. Is it okay to have this sort of reaction?
          4. Do you find yourself having more or less of these type of thoughts at Bowdoin? Do you find yourself cringing more or less at Bowdoin?
      2. Identity vs. Stereotype:
        1. Have participants look at the sample “Geek Identity Sheet”.
        2. Have each participant fill out the stereotype vs. identity sheet about themselves
        3. Share reactions.
          1. How did you pick the descriptor that you did?
          2. Where does this identity come from?
          3. Why is there a disconnect between what you think and how other people perceive you?
          4. Do you think the stereotype would be the same at another school?
      3. Personal Case Studies
        1. “Write about a time that you felt your identity restricted how others perceived or interacted with you”
        2. Example from facilitator (but not about facilitators)
        3. Allow participants to write own (either have participants read own or distribute and have people read other people’s)
        4. Related Probes:
          1. Were any of these surprising?
          2. What problems related to identity are emerging?
  3. Add to list of Bowdoin identities if necessary
  4. Explain that in the next session, we are going to narrow our discussion down to two of these issues, evaluate Bowdoin on them, and craft a vision for Bowdoin. Start thinking.

Session Three (90 min): Evaluating and Envisioning Bowdoin


· Assess Bowdoin on specific criteria in one or two areas

· Identify specific problems

· Craft a vision of an ideal Bowdoin

  1. Explain this session
  2. Dot-vote for one or two aspects of Bowdoin life (identities) your group wants to discuss in detail [10 min for 1&2]
  3. Create measures for grading Bowdoin on those categories in three different levels (individuals, student body/collective, “Bowdoin”/institution)
    1. Inclusiveness
    2. Comfort
    3. Diversity
    4. etc
  4. Fill out your report card [35 min for 2&3]
  5. Probes: [15 min]
    1. Where is Bowdoin doing well? What do we need to work on?
    2. What are the most pressing problems we see?  (make problem list)
  6. Craft a Vision [30 min]
    1. Major question: How do we want to see Bowdoin in the future (one or two sentence response)?
      1. Probes to get there:
        1. Imagine Bowdoin in ten years. How do hope people will interact? What do you hope will be different? What do you still hope is the same?
        2. Explain the difference between vision and mission: mission=goal, such as a cohesive campus community; vision=what that will look like
        3. Think back to problems we’ve discussed. What would Bowdoin look like without them?
        4. How should the categories we just discussed be present at Bowdoin?
      2. Once vision is established (if time):
        1. Write it on a sheet of paper as well as on the group report.
        2. What barriers affect our ability to achieve this vision? (add to problem list)
        3. How might we overcome these barriers?

Session Four (90 min): The Action Plan


· To generate action strategies that will move us towards our vision

· Closure

  1. Hang posters made in session three in particular, but reviewing all. Ask if anybody wants to amend the vision or the problems. Narrow it down to two or three problems if you have more than that. [5 min]
  2. Question: What makes for effective action? [5-10 min]
  3. Action-idea-generation [30 min]
    1. Have a sheet labeled “Individual”, “Collective”, and “Institutional”. Split into small groups and rotate around.
    2. OR: Move through these categories as a group and brainstorm specific actions.
    3. Either way, discuss the ideas generated and start to focus.
  4. Narrowing the Action Plan [35 min]
    1. Explain the two different presentations (one to the other groups; one to student leaders, staff, professors, and administrators) and the need to commit  to it in writing (something to present, remember over the break)
    2. Narrow down to one action plan for each category.
    3. (In doing so, you might already answer these questions:) Have a scribe record the answers to these questions on a sheet for the top finishers:
      1. How would this action be implemented? How would participation be encouraged? Who needs to be on board?
      2. How does this contribute to our vision? What problem does this address, and how does it do that?
      3. What barriers are there to achieving this?
  5. Closure/wrap-up [Leave at least ten minutes]
    1. Re-grade selves or look at letters
    2. What have you learned from being a part of this dialogue?
    3. What worked? What could change?
    4. Hand out evals.