By Brooks Whitehurst
In response to an intramural flag football team naming itself Ferguson PD, the Division of Student Life will host a Discerning Dialogue Forum to raise student awareness and sensitivity to current events.
The forum will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. today in the Bill Daniel Student Center and marks the beginning of a student-led series titled “This Matters.” The series will bring in faculty and staff to educate students on important current issues, said Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, dean for student development.
The conversation that sparked a need for current events education began Oct. 8 on Twitter when several students expressed disapproval of the team name, which changed to Flag Football Team the next day.
In an email Palacios invited the student body to attend the forum and said the incident shows that many students lack awareness of current events and the harmful effects ignorance can have on a community. The forum leaders hope to raise awareness of current events and how the way they are discussed can affect students.
“The forum is not about the students on the team,” Palacios said. “It’s about all students understanding the importance of current events and the consequences of ignorance.”
Palacios said the incident helped student development realize a great number of students are unaware of current events and their importance.
“We want to make sure that our students are aware of events day to day,” Palacios said. “We need to be cognizant, and this is a great opportunity to teach.”
Palacios said student development and intramural sports realized on Oct. 8 that the name “Ferguson PD” had slipped through filters and precautions set in place to ensure that intramural teams have appropriate names. The following day she and a representative from intramural sports met with the students and changed the team name.
“When I spoke with the team, they were incredibly remorseful,” Palacios said. “They didn’t realize the gravity of naming their team that.”
She said the team issued an apology letter to intramural sports, and that the intramural department is currently going through the process of sanctions with the students involved.
“Our actions with the students are not just disciplinary, but helping them understand that their actions have implications,” Palacios said.
Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, associate professor of journalism, public relations and new media, said the forum will address the events in Ferguson in which a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, and how Baylor as a community can move forward from those events.
“It’s a wound that doesn’t have to fester,” Moody-Ramirez said. “That’s what we’re trying to promote: healing.”
Moody-Ramirez will give a short presentation along with Dr. Jerry Park, associate professor of sociology, and Dr. Pedro Reyes, associate professor of management. Together they will help answer questions from attendees.
“We’re not going to sweep this under the rug, we’re going to promote healing,” Moody-Ramirez said.
Several students and alumni learned of the event from various social media channels where photos of the intramural roster with the team name “Ferguson PD” were posted.
“I thought the team name was very distasteful,” said Rowlett junior Erin Gaddis.
Gaddis is the president of the Texas NAACP Youth and College division. She said she found out about the team through people mentioning Baylor NAACP on Twitter along with the photo of the roster. She said the need for a forum on this sensitive matter is evident by the choice these students made.
Palacios said the goal of today’s forum will be to show these different perspectives on how lack of awareness can bring harm.
“If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem,” Palacios said.