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ISU’s Virtual Viewing Of Inauguration: ‘Everyone Is Welcome’

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Illinois State University
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According to the White House Historical Association, the average inaugural address has been 2,337 words.

Despite divisiveness, the Center for Civic Engagement wanted students to attend and contribute in the inauguration process through an Illinois State University Discord channel. 

Students were invited Wednesday to join other college students from around the country for a live, virtual viewing and conversation during the inauguration. Discord is an instant messaging and digital distribution platform designed for creating communities.

“(Students could) watch it and just talk within your own social circle or many folks, regardless of their political affiliation, may not choose to watch it. We really saw our role as wanting to still be sure that we created space for students. An inauguration is a hallmark of American democracy,” said assistant director at CCE Harriett Steinbach

This event’s main focus wasn’t dialogue and discourse civility. However, to address civility the CCE has been rolling out a deliberative dialogue initiative.

“We see that as continuing to be important for our country. We're glad to offer that experience at ISU,” said Steinbach. “We've been doing those in the classroom and we're continuing to do more class-based dialogues.”

Steinbach said conversations in classrooms give students the experience and the skills to talk across political differences and with different ideologies. 

“And it also breaks down lots of complicated, political topics in a way that's not polarizing,” said Steinbach. “Problems and issues in our country are highly complex and really can't be boiled down to: ‘Are you for or against it?’”

Discord hosted watch parties and live chats for the presidential debates back in the fall of 2020.

 

Some conservatives at the national level, like Parler CEO John Matze, have said their free speech is being imposed on. Steinbach said ISU has always hosted a viewing event, regardless of who is being inaugurated.

“We've hosted that event and anyone has been welcome. The intention with the virtual event is to continue in the same fashion, but with the limitations that COVID puts on us,” said Steinbach. 

In years past, the CCE would host a viewing party in the Bone Student Center with snacks and big screens. This year, the only face-to-face interactions were on the Quad where CCE staff handed out pocket-sized copies of the Constitution on Tuesday. 

The CCE will be hosting an additional event on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 11 a.m. On Zoom students, faculty and staff from all over the nation can discuss the inauguration and history. 

“People across the country are coming together to debrief, reflect and discuss the inauguration,” said Steinbach. 

Steinbach said the CCE hopes virtual viewing will capitalize on the energy around the election, particularly around younger voters.

“The inauguration is kind of an extension of that,” said steinbach. “We don't want to be talking about democracy and American politics every two years or every four years when there's a major election. Public policy affects all of our lives on a regular basis. So we’re helping students to understand that and see that rolling into the municipal elections.”

The CCE will have an effort that focuses on local elections in February and April.

“We know that students are all over the place right now, and so we’re focusing on sort of this broad concept of how student voices and young voices matter in local communities,” said Steinbach. 

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