Intergroup dialogue classes scheduled to return fall semester

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Following the loss of the Intergroup Dialogue Program (IDP) last spring, Occidental IDP founder and Psychology Professor Jaclyn Rodriguez will offer direct-enrollment classes in a similar style next year. Rodriguez will teach one of the new classes, The Social Psychology of Intergroup Dialogue and Relations, in the fall and the other, Dialogue on Critical Latinx/Latin American Issues, in the spring.

Formerly, students had to apply to participate in IDP, a class offered for credit to students who wanted a space to discuss critical and social justice issues in class. The program was terminated due to a lack of departmental and institutional support, according to Rodriguez and Psychology Department Chair Brian Kim.

While these new classes foster a similar intergroup dialogue to that in IDP, Rodriguez said the classes will not require an application, and there will be no website.

Dire Ezeh (first year) initially heard about and became interested in intergroup dialogue theory during the Multicultural Summer Institute (MSI), at which Rodriguez taught.

“I’m hoping that not everybody is on the same page about every single topic we learn in class, because often we don’t see different viewpoints up close,” Ezeh said. “It’s not often that people have spaces for these types of conversations.”

According to Rodriguez, IDP courses were developed based on a specific model initiated at the University of Michigan, known as the Program on Intergroup Relations. The primary goals of the classes in the program included increasing knowledge and awareness of intergroup relations theory; practice and honing of dialogue and facilitation skills within groups and across differences; and social justice engagement.

Rodriguez, a social psychologist, brought this model to campus about 10 years ago with the advent of the Occidental IDP, in order to facilitate intellectual spaces on campus and encourage critical engagement across diverse groups of students.

The Michigan program started after the university conducted a study with 10 other institutions, including Occidental, to gather data on the impact of dialogue on a student’s change in self, attitude, beliefs and friendships, among other factors. Sixteen months later, Occidental became the only small liberal arts school to implement the intergroup dialogue model, according to Rodriguez.

Lily Ayau (first year) also learned about intergroup dialogue through MSI.

“Having that kind of information, whether or not IDP is available, is really dependent on programs like MSI because they disseminate the information more naturally through students, and it becomes a part of everyday life,” Ayau said. “The fact that intergroup dialogue has a place and reputation on campus speaks a lot about Oxy as a school.”

According to Rodriguez, MSI fosters powerful dialogues and discussions about issues centered on identity, power and social justice. However, Rodriguez said that one-time workshops and temporary lessons are not enough to critically engage students. Extended periods of time are needed to facilitate transformative dialogues between students across diverse groups.