The group agreements were scrawled on the chalkboard of the classroom in the Woodburn Hall basement — be honest and respectful, listen to understand, refrain from interrupting.
Students had the opportunity to gain one credit hour in just one day by participating in civil discourse on the topic of national security at the Political and Civic Engagement issues forum Saturday. Students were also required to turn in pre-forum and post-forum papers.
PACE is a five-year-old certificate program at IU, and the issues forum — PACE-C 400 — has been offered every year since the program’s creation.
“I think it’s critical to find ways to discuss and resolve critical and important questions, and it’s not enough to simply care about them,”said Michael Grossberg, professor of history and law and director of the PACE certificate program.
The forum combines small-group deliberation and forum discussion with expert panelists.
Grossberg said the program tends to attract two particular types of students.
The first is students studying things or looking for careers that engage directly with public issues, Grossberg said. The other is a student who will simply lead a life as a very active citizen after graduating.
One of the primary objectives of the forum is to help students explore more thoroughly their ideas about the public issue the forum addresses, Grossberg said.
“It’s so easy to get stuck in our own perspectives,” said Lisa-Marie Napoli, lead instructor for this year’s forum.
Napoli and a student committee began planning for this year’s forum in October, meeting three times last semester and a few more times since this semester began, Napoli said.
According to Napoli, students are very involved in running the forum, with a student planning and a student moderating team.
Catherine Krege, a junior in the PACE program majoring in Spanish and international studies, served as a student moderator.
Her job was to remain neutral and guide the two small-group deliberation sessions.
She has moderated for the past two years.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed it,” Krege said. “I think it’s been a great opportunity to see students interact in the process.”
The PACE program focuses heavily on the development of democratic deliberation, Grossberg said.
Krege described the concept as the process of getting to know other people’s opinions and getting to know one’s own opinions.
Napoli said she saw the skill as key to developing an effective democracy.
“If more citizens have that type of skill, it really leads to a healthier democracy and society,” Napoli said.
Students were randomly divided into small groups and assigned a color which corredponded to a classroom in Woodburn. Krege moderated the orange group’s discussion on Saturday.
After reviewing the agenda and group agreements, the group delved into discussion.
Disagreements arose and voices were raised, but tones remained calm and discussion on-topic.
Moderators are trained to keep tensions low and conversation productive, said Napoli,
After their first deliberation, a panel comprised of four IU professors discussed national security in relation to economic, law and relations with Russia.
Followed by brief presentations by each panelist, students were invited to ask questions and engage in a more active discussion.
The forum was open to all undergraduate students, regardless of whether they are enrolled in PACE.
Napoli said she has heard students say the forum increases their faith in democracy and increases their civic capacity.
“We have a lot of very bright, passionate students here,” Grossberg said. “And we want to give them the opportunity to make the world a better place.”
Follow reporter Anna Hyzy on Twitter @annakhyzy.