New Fund Promotes Discussion of Opposing Views


SGA president Jin Sohn ’18 (right) helped to spearhead the fund’s establishment. President Patton’s (left) discretionary fund will provide the program’s first $2,000


In an effort to bring together divergent perspectives, the Student Government Association (SGA) and President Laurie L. Patton have partnered to create the Communicating Across Difference Fund (CADF). The fund seeks to put opposing viewpoints on balanced footing by sponsoring events that allow student organizations to discuss points of contention without privileging one side over another.

“At a time when our campus is greatly divided, we wanted to find a way to provide people with differing views to have a seat at the table and promote conversations for understanding,” said SGA president Jin Sohn ’18. “We wanted to invite people and provide opportunities for ownership of conversation for those whose voices have been misrepresented or silenced in any way. We believe helping financially to create these events and conversations is one of the many ways to make these opportunities accessible for more on our campus.”

The fund is part of the SGA and Patton’s common agenda, which aims to encourage collaboration between the student body and the administration.

“Stronger communication is key to several items on the common agenda,” Patton said, “as is supporting more student leadership on key challenges on our campus.”

Organizations will apply to the CADF together through the SGA Finance Committee and will receive funding on a mutual basis. The first $2,000 of funding will come from Patton’s discretionary fund, while any requests thereafter will be sponsored by the SGA.

According to SGA treasurer Peter Dykeman-Bermingham ’18.5, the fund was originally framed in political discussion but extends to organizations of any type.

“The goal is really just finding difference in how we operate day-to-day as human beings in all of our passions and projects,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to relate to the politics of the day.”

Dykeman-Bermingham also noted the importance of bilateral agreement among participating organizations.

“Neither organization has complete control of the money, neither has complete control over the event,” he said. “They both had to agree to the conversation together, they both had to be consenting parties and that’s really key to us, so we’re not forcing anyone into a conversation they don’t want to be in.”

Such conversations, according to Patton, may build trust among members of the college community.

“If we can sustain social relationships, and build what some theorists call ‘social capital,’ or long term relationships of mutual trust and benefit, we can work together in times of crisis,” she said. “We can learn to debate and disagree in an atmosphere of confidence and connection, rather than let the disagreements erode trust.”

The CADF is live now, and members from student organizations may propose their budgets for CADF-sponsored events at SGA Finance Committee meetings. Representatives from each of the participating organizations must be present at the time of application.