Facilitating Difficult Discussions began with a question posed by Joselyn Lewis, the workshop co-facilitator (along with James Olsen): “What does it mean to you as an individual when I say ‘avoidance has consequences’?”
All at the workshop were invited to respond to this question during their introductions. At their tables, attendees shared scenarios of difficult discussions they’ve had in the past before reporting out to the larger group. Next, five scenarios were presented to the tables as prompts for difficult discussions which, the facilitators stressed, were going on whether we were having them aloud or not, and which, silently, were far more dangerous. In both discussion and reflection, it was clear that the avoidance of a difficult discussion in the classroom or in office hours was a deferral of responsibility with unforeseen consequences, such as losing the trust of an individual student or a class—as one attendee mentioned, even attempts to protect one student from discussion might exacerbate issues by coming at the expense of another student’s comfort or health. The main takeaway from this session was the ability of inclusive pedagogy to manage access to participation in the classroom and to explicitly centralize students and their issues.