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September 24, 2018

Panel discussion at SVSU to engage in 'proactive conversation' over free speech, Confederate flag

Saginaw Valley State University will host a panel of educators and students examining the Confederate flag's history and society's ongoing conversation about its symbolism in modern America.

The event – sponsored by SVSU, the Saginaw Community Foundation and the Saginaw Intermediate School District – is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.

Joni Boye-Beaman, an SVSU professor of sociology and the panel moderator, said the discussion is necessary in part because of an incident earlier this year. In April, Confederate flag-bearing vehicles parked outside Bay City Western High School for several days, leading administrators to cancel classes for one day.

“The purpose of the panel discussion is to try to be proactive in terms of having a conversation about what the flag symbolizes to different groups, and why it is important to understand the different meanings attached to it,” Boye-Beaman said.

“We want to talk about how you balance free speech with potentially-intimidating speech and how to start those kinds of conversations with high school students. The goal is to help frame a discussion so that we don't have incidents like what happened at the school again.”

Kenneth Jolly, SVSU professor of history, will open the discussion with a brief presentation about the history of the Confederate flag. Paul Teed, SVSU professor of history, will be among the panelists. SVSU student Grace Kendziorski, a political science major from Auburn, will join the panel along with Raymond Barber, a political science major from University of Detroit Mercy. Other panelists include Ericka Taylor, director of early education at the Saginaw Intermediate School District, and Carolyn Wierda, interim superintendent for Saginaw Township Community Schools.

The panel discussion is the first of four planned events aimed at developing the skills and knowledge necessary to foster successful and effective dialogue that leads to social justice and equity in communities.

For more information on the event, contact the SVSU Office of Diversity Programs at (989) 964-4068.