• Home
  • Donate
  • Contact
  • Log In

Furman Society of Free Inquiry Wins "Boundary Breaking" Award


by Ryan Hampton

Furman University Unintentional Discrimination Panel

On November 4, 2009, a hundred students at Furman University found a seat to listen to a panel of their peers discuss instances of what they termed "unintentional discrimination." Panelists represented several student organizations, including The Society of Free Inquiry, Student League for Black Culture, Encouraging Respect of Sexualities, Hispanic Organization of Learning and Awareness, and Furman University International Student Association. Panelists hoped to expose some common words and actions that can translate offensively and help those in attendance give more thought to how they interact with others in a way that is respectful of diversity.

The Society of Free Inquiry (SoFI) is the first religious skeptics group on Furman's campus, and the Unintentional Discrimination event was their first large, sponsored event. SoFI furnished the panel with two members: Michelle Cote and Lacey Brantley. Cote opened the panel with reflections on the "unintentional discrimination" she has experienced, from friends repeatedly inviting her to their youth group activities to promising her speedy entry into hell due to her atheism. Other groups described forms of cultural and sexual discrimination that often arise. As many of these actions result from deeply ingrained habits or beliefs, panelists emphasized the importance of thinking before one speaks and considering the audience more fully before making comments that could offend. Perhaps most importantly, panelists encouraged audience members to simply ask. By finding out how people prefer to be addressed and treated, you can understand each other better and communicate more effectively. Following the panelists' presentations, students were given the opportunity to ask questions, and many left with more open minds.

The event was immediately hailed as a success by students and faculty alike. It was featured on the front page of Furman's school newspaper, which praised the event's ability to raise awareness about the issues facing many minority groups. It was nominated for a university leadership award, the "Boundary Breaker Program of the Year" award. This award is given to the organization which "sponsored the most innovative, creative, and groundbreaking project or program that has established a new standard in Furman's student life". Furthermore, several members of Furman's administration have suggested that this "Unintentional Discrimination" panel replace the current diversity presentation given during new student orientation. As the award describes, this "Unintentional Discrimination" panel has established a new standard for Furman. Rather than merely focusing on large, evident issues such as racial, sexual, or religious prejudice, the "Unintentional Discrimination" event called on students to look deeper at their basic interactions, paving the way for greater understanding and acceptance among individuals in both the university and the global setting.

Ryan HamptonRyan Hampton, is the President and co-founder of the Society of Free Inquiry at Furman University in Greenville, SC. He is a Junior and a Psychology/Asian Studies double major. He likes banana-flavored foods and extreme sports.

Powered by Drupal