Freedom, responsibility and compassion: This was the theme of Keene State College’s third annual Teach-In event on Thursday, Feb. 21. The purpose of the teach-in is to create an open dialogue on campus about a variety of topics that allow diverse viewpoints to be heard from, consisting of information sessions and interactive activities. KSC President Melinda Treadwell hopes the teach-in helps better define what Keene State’s stance is on free speech.
“The goals of this is to create statements around free speech, around hate speech, around bias, so that we can be clear with guests who visit our campus about things that are a part of our culture and things that aren’t part of our culture,” Treadwell said.
This year’s teach-in had 17 events such as a meditation session, information about vaccinations and autism, a session dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and multiple others related to the theme. One session entitled “Can we talk?” was facilitated by Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Dottie Morris. This teach-in session used the notes that were taken during the four listening sessions held last fall to create an open conversation for participants to share their opinions and ideas about language and how we all interact with one another.
Morris started the conversation off by defining reciprocal determinism, which is how what one thinks impacts their actions and behaviors, and discussing how language contributes to the dehumanization process. The group contributed to the conversation by talking about how open conversation and hearing other people’s viewpoints, without having the intention of trying to change their mind, is beneficial.
“The language we use to code other people can have an impact on how we interact or don’t interact. How you think about language and people will have an impact,” Morris said.
KSC senior Collin Coviello was in attendance at the session and stressed the importance of inclusivity in discussions about controversial issues.
“I think tension is really important when talking about things like race or ethnicity and people’s ignorance surrounding those issues,” Coviello said. “It’s important to hear people’s unfiltered perspectives because when they try to mask it, it puts it away in a place where it keeps compounding on itself because they don’t have to justify it to anybody.”
Morris ended the session by reminding attendees that it is important to speak your truth, without trying to convince people that your view is always right.
Another informational session at the teach-in was “Practicing Nonviolent Resistance and Social Justice,” facilitated by Lecturer of Communications Michael McCarthy. This session began with a screening of a Ted Talk by Erica Chenoweth that provided information and statistics on the success of nonviolent campaigns. This includes how nonviolent campaigns are four times larger than violent ones, and are much more inclusive. Violent campaigns often require physical capabilities, which automatically excludes much of the elderly, children and disabled people.
McCarthy led a discussion after the Ted Talk, using his personal experience of practicing civil disobedience in his past. He discussed his past run-ins with police while protesting and how his work empowered him to not be afraid.
“The more we understand nonviolence, the more likely we are to not repeat the same mistakes over and over,” McCarthy said.
The teach-in ended with a screening of the film “13th” at the Redfern Arts Center at 7 p.m. This film takes a look at the prison system in the U.S. and how it relates to racial inequality in the nation.
Dean of the Mason Library Celia Rabinowitz, who helps with the organization of the teach-in, hoped that everyone who attended is able to walk away having learned something new.
“It’s as much about the learning itself as it is about the ideas,” Rabinowitz said. “The presenters are really passionate about what they’re talking about, and you get to see faculty in a different way than in the classroom.”
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at