The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) and St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) will kick off a four-part series of community conversations entitled ‘Bridging Our Gaps:  Community Conversations to Rebuild Our Democracy’ Feb. 24. The series of virtual community-focused events are a collaboration between St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s Center for the Study of Democracy and Office of Inclusive Diversity, Equity, Access, and Accountability, and CSM’s Equity and Inclusive Diversity Office. The events give students and the Southern Maryland community opportunities for open and respectful small- and large-group conversations about some of today’s most pressing social and political issues.

The springboard for the conversations is the 2020 Study on Democracy and Elections in America conducted by Dr. Antonio Ugues, Jr., director of the Center for the Study of Democracy. Ugues’ national survey captured public opinion on the integrity of the 2020 election, policing in America, US immigration policy, and race and racism.

Dr. Antonio Ugues

“Some of the trends in survey responses align well with what we commonly hear about the views of, say, conservatives and liberals, but there are definitely some surprises,” Ugues said. “It sounds cliché, but the data confirms that Americans have more in common than meets the eye. When I shared the results with my series collaborators, we started having deep and wide-ranging conversations about the data and actually weren’t getting much planning done! Finally, it dawned on us that this should not be a lecture series with me presenting the data and then taking questions, but instead an invitation to our students and the community to also engage in robust conversations.”

The series kicks off Feb. 24, 7-8 p.m., with “Electoral Integrity Matters,” a look at Americans’ confidence in the 2020 election and views on political protest. Ugues will provide an overview of the data and then the audience will break out into smaller groups to discuss the data and its implications. The program will conclude with audience reflection on what the data suggests about the ability of Americans to bridge gaps in understanding of key issues and of each other’s views of those issues.

Dr. Sybol Anderson

“Collective deliberation is the heart of democracy,” said CSM’s Executive Director of Equity and Inclusive Diversity Dr. Sybol Anderson. “We need to exercise that muscle. Although it may be challenging, I believe we are capable of coming together successfully to discuss good information rather than misinformation, of listening to each other resiliently, and of working together to find constructive solutions to our political challenges.”

The ‘Bridging Our Gaps’ virtual series continues with “Attitudes on Policing in America” on March 10; “Discussing US Immigration Policy” March 31; and “Public Attitudes on Race in America” April 14. All events are open and free to the public.

Calendar:

“Electoral Integrity Matters”: Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. 7-8 p.m. The public is invited join Center for the Study of Democracy director Antonio Ugues in discussing Americans’ confidence in the 2020 presidential election and views of political protest. Hosted by CSM’s Equity and Inclusive Diversity Office and SMCM’s Center for the Study of Democracy and Office of Inclusive Diversity, Equity, Access, and Accountability. Registration is required for this free Zoom event. Visit: http://bit.ly/bridgingourgaps1

“Attitudes on Policing in America”: Wednesday, March 10, 2021. 7-8 p.m. The public is invited join Center for the Study of Democracy director Antonio Ugues in discussing public views of policing in the US. Hosted by CSM’s Equity and Inclusive Diversity Office and SMCM’s Center for the Study of Democracy and Office of Inclusive Diversity, Equity, Access, and Accountability. Registration is required for this free Zoom event. Visit: http://bit.ly/bridgingourgaps2

“Discussing US Immigration Policy”: Wednesday, March 31, 2021. 7-8 p.m. The public is invited join Center for the Study of Democracy director Antonio Ugues in discussing Americans’ current views of US immigration policy. Hosted by CSM’s Equity and Inclusive Diversity Office and SMCM’s Center for the Study of Democracy and Office of Inclusive Diversity, Equity, Access, and Accountability. Registration is required for this free Zoom event. Visit: http://bit.ly/bridgingourgaps3

“Public Attitudes on Race in America”: Wednesday, April 14, 2021. 7-8 p.m. The public is invited join Center for the Study of Democracy director Antonio Ugues in discussing public views of race and racism in America. Hosted by CSM’s Equity and Inclusive Diversity Office and SMCM’s Center for the Study of Democracy and Office of Inclusive Diversity, Equity, Access, and Accountability. Registration is required for this free Zoom event. Visit: http://bit.ly/bridgingourgaps4


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