On Tuesday, Program Support Assistant for LGBTQ students Hunter Kirschner facilitated this semester’s final Courageous Conversation, named “By any means necessary? Violence as a tactic for political, social and personal change.”
Kirschner is part of the Courageous Conversations Committee, the group of Keene State College staff that work to put on these events.
“I always get something out of facilitating. I love those conversations a lot. Although I work with students directly, and even have these conversations, I think there’s something about the structure of being a facilitator instead of a participant that lets me better listen to what people have to say, instead of feeling like I have to be an authority in something, or have a well-formed opinion, because I don’t always … I always feel more connected, as well as more intellectually stimulated in terms of these conversations. Not often do I just get to have conversations about a topic and explore and try to make sense of it from what other people say,” Kirschner said.
Kirschner went on, explaining: “I think what we hope is that, in creating this container for participants to engage in these really hard conversations, is to practice listening to other people, and people you might not normally have these conversations with. It’s an open event, so anybody can come. In being able to hear how other people make sense of it or explain it or their personal experiences around violence, we’re trying to break down the impulse to assume or pre-judge what another person is thinking, because I think we do that often; we think we have people more or less figured out by a few things we might know about them. We all have a whole host of experiences that are readily visible, and so we’re trying to suspend those judgements and assumptions, and being open to what people have to say or might be thinking and try to make sense of that for ourselves.”
Although the event is formulated around a question, the committee is not looking for a final answer.
Kirschner said, “The point of the conversations isn’t necessarily to come up with an answer, but to at least try to explore it by having more words and an understanding to bring us closer to maybe an answer. At least making people think about the question and being curious about the use of violence, and when one might use violence. It’s not to answer the question, but to have more questions come up. Even still, I do feel like many people were engaged, exploring, and and trying to articulate what they thought for themselves around this topic.”
In creating a subject to talk about at each Courageous Conversation, Kirschner said, “We try to determine what our topic is pretty soon before our conversation to try and make it timely and relevant. In our conversation at the meeting, it was just after the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue shooting, and right in the week before that there were all the bombs sent to various politicians and people in the media. Also, there has been this continuation of violent rhetoric, as well as action in terms of school shootings, other use of guns, as well as other forms of violence… It felt very relevant. So, trying to make sense of why people would use violence, because I think it’s very easy to be dismissive, and say, ‘Well these people are just crazy, it doesn’t make sense.’”
Sophomore communications major Joshua Bramble was an active participant in Tuesday’s Courageous Conversation.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I came, but I was hoping to gain a new perspective on violence and how it’s perceived in our community, and I feel like I walked away with that. I feel like it was worth coming to,” Bramble said. “I would come back. The conversation was just really deep, and I feel like I took away a lot of good things that changed my perception on violence on the topic.”
Jake Hansen, a junior education major, was also present at Tuesday evening’s event.
“It was definitely very interesting and thought-provoking. You can definitely think about a lot more than you might in just your everyday life… My biggest take-away from this conversation was just changing your views, changing how you look at certain things, and [changing] your own actions in your everyday life, to set an example for other people to follow through your own actions,” Hansen said.
Kirschner said, “Another thing that came out of the conversation for me that I’m taking away is that I want for myself to be more conscious and aware of all the ways I am complicit in different instances of power, and different forms of violence that occur… There’s always work to do. None of us are perfect, and none of us are free of responsibility to one another and to the world.”
Amanda Bevis can be contacted at