The Colgate campus is now going … orange? Even though the Environmental Sustainability Fund and breast cancer awareness events have already colored the campus green and pink, respectively, the OrangeBand Initiative plans to give our college community a whole new hue.
“The OrangeBand Initiative is dedicated to empowering people to have and promote conversation about what matters,” OrangeBands co-coordinator sophomore Kathleen Cooney said. “The goal of the conversations is to generate a better understanding of why a person thinks the way he or she thinks.”
From April 21 until April 27, students can pick up orange bands at Curtiss E. Frank Dining Hall, the O’Connor Campus Center, and their residence halls. They will first choose an issue that is important to them, then pick up an orange band, and ideally strike up a conversation with a fellow student or faculty member about the issue that they wrote on their band.
Although Cooney gives examples such as the war in Iraq, clean elections, education, teenage suicide, and poverty as possible issues with which to personalize the bands, both she and her co-coordinator, sophomore Mike LoFaso, do not intend for any one issue in particular to dominate the discussion.
“We encourage students to tackle issues of race, religion, politics, etc. so that members of the Colgate Community will be able to gain new and interesting perspectives from one another,” LoFaso said.
The OrangeBand Initiative is a nonprofit organization that was first developed on the James Madison University (JMU) campus in 2003. Students there were dissatisfied with the lack of quality conversation amongst the student body, and so they came up with the idea of the OrangeBands as a “means of facilitating neutral community-wide dialogue and discussions.” The project was quite successful at JMU, with over 2,000 participants, and it has since gained national recognition.
Cooney first encountered this Initiative last semester in Professor of Psychology Caroline Keating’s Leadership Options or Tomorrow (LOFT) II class, “How to Change the World.” When asked what sorts of things were missing or needed at Colgate, Cooney and project partner sophomore Daniel Cavazos felt that “authentic conversations were lacking on campus.” As a result, Cooney and Cavazos acquired space at the Hieber Café at the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology as a place for students to come together and discuss meaningful issues.
Independently of Cavazos and Cooney’s project (entitled “Ba”), the Office of Residential Life decided to initiate the OrangeBand Initiative at Colgate. Cooney immediately jumped on board because the program fit in so well with her project and what she thinks is lacking at Colgate.
In addition to organizing and promoting this event, the “Ba” has arranged for a discussion led by Keating to be held on April 24 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the café. Professor Keating will discuss the benefits of genuine conversation, as well as ways in which students can improve daily interactions. Attendees will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the event. The discussion will serve as a forum in which the students can further discuss the issues written on their bands.
Before students converge at the discussion on Thursday, April 24, the conversations that the OrangeBands spark will ideally develop spontaneously. According to Assistant Director of Residential Life Daniel Roberts, the bands should be displayed openly so that others will feel comfortable striking up a conversation about the issue at hand. The hope is that other students will be curious about what is written on the bands of their peers and will want to further explore that issue.
In fact, the Initiative’s website, www.convergingvoices.com/oband, says, “The idea is simply to get an OrangeBand, put it someplace visible, and use it to spark a conversation – hopefully with someone who thinks differently. The Orange Band Initiative is promoting conversation about what matters. YOU decide what matters.” Additional information may be found on the Initiative’s Facebook page, OrangeBand Initiative (Colgate Chapter).
There are no limits, rules or regulations – besides openness and respectfulness – to guide the OrangeBand discussions during the week of April 21. Cooney reflected on the peculiarities of the event.
“One might think that we are taking a leap of faith with this initiative,” she said. “We are assuming that Colgate students have thought about what matters to them, and that they are curious about the opinions of their peers. But I don’t think this assumption is a stretch, by any means. During this week especially, students should feel comfortable usurping social rules that prevent them from having these conversations on campus.”
LoFaso shared this sentiment.
“We hope that people will discuss issues in whatever setting they feel most comfortable,” LoFaso said. “Although discussion and debate between large groups is certainly welcome, we encourage students to initiate conversations whenever and wherever possible.”