Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


The Making of a Special Issue

I was excited going into this whole project. Besides being the first panel discussion assembled by the UP, this was also the first time we devoted a whole issue to race. It would suffice to say that since this was new for the UP, the planning stages of this project were a real learning experience for me and my colleagues. This was no easy thing to pull off.

The first thing was to decide who would be on the panel. Initially, my idea was to have both students and administrators discuss the issues. The logic behind this was based on my expectation that students would share their experiences with an interested faculty, who would, in turn, be made aware of the issues. The biggest problem I faced with this concept, though, was the faculty’s lack of willingness to show up. I invited three faculty members to join the discussion and, after sending countless e-mails and making countless telephone calls, I got little response from any of them. It was discouraging in that it seemed like they didn’t take what I was doing seriously.

The winter break didn’t help things either because no one was around. So since I needed to do something pretty much right away, I went with my only option: a full student panel.

I wanted to get a good mix of students, who would have enough of a stake in the discussion to actually speak their minds. I quickly grabbed Chris Mack and Tony Arserio, both Student Government senators, knowing that they would be willing to talk.

After that, I looked for black student representation and found it in Johnny Brownlee and Nick Charite, presidents of the Black Student Union and Konbit Kreyol respectively. They both jumped at the opportunity, especially Brownlee who had held a similar discussion with BSU last year.

Once I had yeses from all the panelists, I got in touch with Owl TV and asked them to partner with us in producing this project. They agreed to film the event, and worked hard to iron out a lot of the technical issues that surrounded its production.

The most difficult part of this whole process was deciding how to question the panelists. Since I didn’t want to go in cold, I decided to pre-interview each one with a very similar set of questions. This way I would already have the thoughts of each panelist before the group discussion, and I would be able to group their individual responses into a collective question.

With this, I began the process of pre-interviewing each panelist. And much to my surprise, they were all candid in their answers. I had nearly 10 pages of quotes to work with by the time I was done.

Since I asked the panelists similar questions, I depended on their answers to shape my questions. I looked mainly for questions that drew different responses. I didn’t want to have them all agree the whole time, because that be boring, and the whole thing would be a flop.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was helping Owl TV setup for the event in the UC’s Grand Palm Room on the Boca campus. I hadn’t met most of the panelists before the day of the event, and I was concerned that the lack of familiarity might breed discomfort. Once we started rolling, though, the situation was anything but uncomfortable. The panelists were all extremely vocal, and basically all I had to do was ask a question and turn them loose.

They all had a lot to say. I think it worked out because in talking about race, we all knew that we were doing a service to the student body. These are the issues that need to have light shed on them, especially because a lot of people tend to think things are “ok” between whites and blacks. The truth, and I found this out after the discussion, is that relations really aren’t that great between blacks and whites. There is still a lot of tension between them, but it is expressed in more subtle ways than it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

I hope everyone that has read the story in the University Press’ special Black History Month issue and seen the video clips finds this experience as enlightening as I did.

Check out UPOnline over the next week to see clips from the panel discussion. Also pick up the UP’s special Black History Month to read more about the panel and the state of race issues at FAU.

Click here to view more pictures from the UP’s race issues panel discussion

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