Fireside chat encourages conversation on difficult issues

In the aftermath of a controversial election and recent unrest in Milwaukee, the overall mood of the student body can be described simply as uneasy, a term mentioned multiple times at President Michael Lovell’s latest fireside chat.

Marquette Student Government hosted the event Nov. 21 in Sensenbrenner Hall, gathering students and university officials to partake in conversation in an informal and intimate setting. Lovell was part of the three-person panel alongside associate director of Hispanic Initiatives Jackie Black and executive director of Marquette University’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion William Welburn.

Lovell said he hosts the biannual chats to answer questions students have, discuss topics they are curious about or address any concerns students may have about the university.

“I just get the feeling that we can’t communicate enough with our students,” he said. “I get to talk in a lot of different venues and formats, but a lot of times it doesn’t reach the students. We need to make sure that we’re constantly having that dialogue. We want to be a place where we can have open conversations and talk about difficult things.”

MUSG President Abraham Ortiz Tapia hosted the chat and asked the panel previously submitted student questions. Questions concerning the impact of the presidential election in relation to diversity, immigrants and students who may feel marginalized on campus were especially prevalent.

“Especially with everything going on with the election that just happened, everything is kind of building up and there’s a lot of student uneasiness,” Ortiz Tapia said.

He said his goal of the evening was to engage in dialogue about the more difficult questions facing Marquette students and faculty.

“I think this situation (election) has enabled a lot of negative dialogue, and people feel empowered to say things that they wouldn’t normally say,” Ortiz Tapia said, citing various racist incidences he witnessed in Milwaukee.

In addition to discussing nationwide topics that impact the Marquette community, Lovell said that a major goal for the fireside chats is simply to maintain transparency within the university.

“We want to be transparent about where we’re going as an institution and why we’re doing things,” he said.

Ten students attended the chat, though Oritz said he was hoping for more. The students who did attend said they enjoyed it and felt that the conversations were important to have.

“It was really cool to see President Lovell be in a non-formal, smaller setting where he can … be real and honest, and give answers to anything we want to know,”  Tiffany Gantz, a senior in the College of Communication, said. 

Kasia Mysliwiec, a senior in the College of Engineering, said it showed the campus’s intent for the creation of change.

“What I took away from this is that Marquette is really serious about reaching out to the community and having more diversity on campus, which is important to a lot of people I think,” she said.