KUTZTOWN, PA – Kutztown University associate professor of anthropology and sociology Dr. Jennifer R. Schlegel will speak at the October edition of the “Spirit on Tap” series 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 13, at the DoubleTree Hotel, 701 Penn Street, Reading. The event is free and open to the public.
Dr. Schlegel began work studying and fighting hate speech as an active citizen in the mid-90s, when she realized the Ku Klux Klan was active in her own community of Boyertown. She joined the Boyertown Area Unity Coalition, participating in Project Lemonade, a fundraising campaign designed to turn hate speech into revenue funding anti-hate groups.
Around 2006, Dr. Schlegel brought her activism to the classroom with a popular course on hate, taught at both Kutztown and Millersville Universities. The class, Hate Across Cultures, will be taught on the Kutztown University campus this Spring 2020 semester. Dr. Schlegel is on the campus anti-bias task force, led by Donavan McCargo, assistant vice president and dean of students, and has presented at multiple conferences from local PASSHE conferences on diversity to the State System Human Resources and Equity Conference with Jacqueline Fox, assistant vice president for equity and compliance.
The forum will examine the difficult questions about when and why hate groups present themselves in a community. The discussion will also address how to have the conversations necessary to resolve issues of hate.
“Ultimately, the most difficult thing that people have to do to prevent the spread of hate is to have the difficult conversations,” Schlegel said. “If we are waiting for people to have epiphanies and overnight change, that’s not likely to happen. Are we willing to walk alongside people who are leaving? If we don’t do it, then who are the people left for them to have conversations with?”
Dr. Schlegel hopes to equip her students with tools that prepare them for the real world, knowing when to “call-out” versus when to “call-in” and having conversations rather than arguments. Dedicated to the Kutztown University mission, the forum is designed to give attendees the tools to be their best selves. The forum is an invitation to students and community alike to gain access these tools through a comfortable, conversational experience. So, what should attendees expect to take away from the experience?
“Courage to have the difficult conversations,” Schlegel said. “Responsibility for these conversations. Awareness of what might draw people to hate and what might draw people away from hate. And the willingness to speak up.”
Sponsored in part by the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton and other individual contributions, Spirit on Tap’s purpose is to encourage theological discussion, explore alternative views, and stimulate dialogue around issues of faith, spirituality, culture and social justice. For more information on the Spiritual Exploration Project, Soul Café and other Spirit on Tap events, check out the season flyer or contact Dr. Harry L. Serio at [email protected] or 610-944-7032.