SRU to offer conversation on ‘Culture and Symbols’


sidwalk chalk messaging

The meaning and ways in which people interpret signs and symbols will be explored when Slippery Rock University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team offers the first in its Courageous Conversations program Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.

Nov. 28, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - In the week following the 2016 presidential election, 701 incidents of hate speech - including more than 80 anti-LGBT and 60 instances of swastika vandalism - occurred across the country, according to the Southern Poverty and Law Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

Slippery Rock University was not immune from election-time messages either as several instances of anti-Trump, anti-Clinton and anti-immigrant chalkings appeared on sidewalks across campus.

The meaning and ways in which people interpret these messages will be explored when SRU's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team offers the first in its Courageous Conversations program, entitled "Culture and Symbols," at 6 p.m., Nov. 29 in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.

Team members, including a variety of SRU students; Corinne Gibson, director of the Office for Inclusive Excellence; and Brett Barnett, associate professor of communication, will lead the discussion.

"We will have both small and large group discussions on how controversial symbols can be viewed as both positive and negative and how usage of symbols represent one's identity," Gibson said. "This topic was chosen to help foster campuswide dialogue and awareness. We wanted to make sure students become knowledgeable of how symbols are part of culture and their possible effects."

Yonshalae Powell, a graduate student in the student affairs in higher education program from Sharon, who serves on the inclusion team, said participants will talk about the powerful nature of symbols in every day life and the different ways in which Americans interpret graffiti.

"We'd like to know how people see symbols in a negative, positive and neutral connotation," she said.

From there, Powell said, the session would focus on helping students take responsibility for the use and meaning of symbols.

"Symbols have multiple meanings to multiple people," Powell said. "We're trying to create a lot of opportunities in which students can discuss this and move forward to cultivate a respectful community on campus. That starts with talking."

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 |