Law School Dean Vincent Rougeau, Dean of Students Thomas Mogan, and Associate Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Tony Penna. (Lee Pellegrini)

Members of the University community, including many students, gathered last Thursday to hear thoughts from three senior Boston College administrators on how to promote rational discourse at Boston College, and beyond.

Law School Dean Vincent Rougeau, Dean of Students Thomas Mogan and Associate Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Tony Penna, were the speakers for the event, “Maintaining Community Throughout Difficult Conversations,” held as part of the Fireside Chat series sponsored by University Libraries, the Office of the Provost, Student Affairs, and Campus Ministry. 

University Librarian Thomas Wall moderated the 45-minute discussion, which took place in the O’Neill Library Reading Room. Audience members had the opportunity to follow up in a subsequent Q&A session. 

Law School Dean Vincent Rougeau makes a point as the event's moderator, University Librarian Thomas Wall (at left), looks on. (Lee Pellegrini)

“During the last presidential campaign, I think we all realized the prevalence of this ‘Everyone has an opinion, but no one cares to listen’ rhetoric,” said Wall, in an interview. 

“One thing that makes Boston College so special is its sense of community, so the provost and Council of Deans and I decided it would be a good idea to have a chat around not one particular ideology, but how BC’s community is maintained in a time when people are very impassionate with their political viewpoints.”

Wall stressed the importance of the event being co-sponsored by the three pillars of academics, student affairs, and campus ministry. 

Each has a role to play in “moving us away from anti-intellectualism and towards rational discourse,” he said. “If any one of those three pillars took a step back, it would take away from our motto ‘Ever to excel.’”

Head Librarian for Assessment and Outreach Carli Spina used those three pillars to focus her outreach efforts across campus to ensure the event would reach a broad potential audience of interested students, faculty and staff.

“I’m really pleased with how the event turned out,” said Spina.  “The panelists brought insightful perspectives to this timely topic, represented the BC character and response, and did a great job of answering the audiences questions.”

Wall called the Fireside Chat series an experiment, albeit an “excellent” one, and said organizers would consider continuing it in the fall semester.

“Most issues in society are far more nuanced than opinions,” said Wall.  “We need to take heart of the idea of being good citizens, and try to understand different viewpoints.

“Conversations are difficult and divisive because people are so invested in their own opinions. Boston College aims to transcend opinions and look towards truth.”

–Siobhan Sullivan / University Communications