This guide was adapted by Teresa Martinez and Leah Murray to provide resources and support for administration, faculty, staff, students and the community to gather the resources and tools needed to facilitate difficult and constructive conversations, especially post-election. Materials and content included in this guide are used with permission from James Madison Center for Civic Engagement, Students Learn Students Vote, and Ask Every Student. Any additional ideas or resources to add to this page are welcome. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guide for Post-Election Conversations
- During contentious times, like divisive elections, we encounter heightened emotions and reactions that often lead to unproductive conversations and lack of understanding, even violence and hate.
- Weber State University’s Political Engagement Coalition encourages all administrators, faculty, staff, students, and community members to express their viewpoints equally with the understanding that we all may not agree on the same things, but we seek to better understand those who have differing viewpoints for the betterment of ourselves, the university and our communities.
- Pivotal to Weber State University's mission is the need to embrace and value the diversity of its members. Acknowledging the uniqueness of each individual, we seek to cultivate an environment that encourages freedom of expression (WSU Inclusivity Statement).
- We encourage everyone to participate in and be patient in the democratic process and to engage with others in civil and respectful ways.
- We have provided the following guidelines, resources and tools for you to engage in conversations relating to the election.
Establishing Ground Rules
Common ground agreements should be established prior to any conversation about the election. This applies to in-person and virtual spaces. Listening to all voices equally, thoughtfully and with tact provides a productive and respectful learning environment for all involved. The following are suggested Ground Rules to consider as you facilitate and participate in any conversation:
- Faculty and staff are free to support candidates and campaigns on their own time, but may not solicit for a candidate at the university, using university resources, or give the appearance that they are speaking on behalf of the institution. Utah law and WSU policy prohibits employees from using weber.edu email to encourage voting for or against a particular candidate. The university encourages the free exchange of ideas, but must itself remain nonpartisan and neutral. The American Council on Education has developed a handy reference with more information related to this topic.
- Speech that is discriminatory or harassing or that threatens violence will not be tolerated at any time.
- These conversations are not about changing minds as they are meant for participants to actively listen, develop empathy, seek understanding, and build respectful relationships.
- Everyone will have a diverse perspective as they share their thoughts, ideas, experiences, etc. We do not all have to agree, but we must all treat each other with respect.
- "Faculty members have a responsibility to their students to entertain all relevant questions and to discuss controversial questions objectively and freely. Where faculty members find it pedagogically useful to advocate a position on controversial matters, they should exercise care to assure that opportunities exist for students to consider other views. Faculty members shall not reward agreement or penalize disagreement with their views on controversial topics, but they can reasonably expect their students to learn the rationale behind certain positions" (WSU PPM 9-5).
- Strive to learn and understand others’ experiences and seek permission to ask questions to better understand those experiences.
- Everyone shares equal speaking time.
- One person speaks at a time at all times.
- Challenge the idea, not the person.
- The space in which the conversation takes place is confidential and must be treated as such.
- Listen with curiosity. Avoid judgment and distractions.
Providing Support and Remaining Neutral
People will discuss the results of the 2020 election. Choosing to have that conversation with an open mind and with respect for someone else’s political identity will promote greater understanding. Be prepared with the following information:
- Election results take time to process - elections offices do not announce results until they are certified.
- Voters can track their ballots on vote.utah.gov.
- Refer to vote.utah.gov for updated information and share results.
Remember, Weber State University faculty and staff cannot advocate for a candidate, initiative, referendum, or ballot proposition using university funds, email, or giving the appearance that they are speaking on behalf of the institution. With that in mind, be prepared to:
- Keep conversations non-partisan while still providing a space to exchange ideas, perspectives, and opinions.
- Recognize your emotions and reactions and thoughtfully respond to others when they share their emotions and reactions.
- Consider the larger implications of issues facing your community. As a member of your local community, you have a larger and more immediate impact. Get involved with the local offices, organizations and issues, then find ways to positively contribute.
- Help individuals find credible information about the election result. Be prepared to ask:
- How are you staying informed and which sources are you seeking information from? Are they credible? Are they biased and sway you to see topics a certain way?
- Admit that there are divisions and information is biased, but commit to seeking unbiased information to contribute to difficult conversations
- Use Four Moves and a Habit to check the sources of the material you are consuming: aascu.org/ADP/DigiPoInfographic.pdf
- Be a model for civil conversations about the results.
- Focus the energy of others seeking to make a positive contribution in their community.
- Think about framing conversations using questions, such as:
- What did the election mean to you?
- If you participated in the election, how did you feel about it? Why?
- Can you think of reasons why some people might be disappointed in the election outcome?
- Can you think of reasons why some people might be happy about the election outcome?
- How might those who have been historically underrepresented, marginalized, or minoritized feel about participating in the election or about the results? How can you uplift and support their perspectives and voices?
- What are ways you would like to see elected leaders work together on issues facing our community, nation, or world?
- What are some public issues that are important to you? How can you and others address those issues by engaging different levels of government and connecting with others in their community?
- What will you do to ensure we address issues facing our community, nation, or world?
- Be prepared to offer some ideas: creating art, getting involved in student - like WSUSA - or community organizations, volunteering, providing research or expertise, uplifting voices that are traditionally underrepresented, marginalized or minoritized, joining protests or petitions, writing public comments and attending local board and commission meetings on issues they care about.
- What barriers or challenges are there to addressing issues facing our community, nation and world? How can we help overcome them?
- What is something that inspires you for the future of our democracy?
- What kind of reforms would like to see to make our democracy more just and inclusive?
Reflect on Your Own Identities, Prejudices, Positions & Biases
Elections bring up emotions and reactions in all people and you are not immune to that. With that in mind, reflect on your own identities, prejudices, positions and biases. In these conversations, reflect on what is shaping your responses so that you can best model civil conversations. Consider the following:
- How have major events in your life shaped how you see things? How has 2020 shaped how you see things?
- Did your family discuss politics when you were growing up? How did this impact how you participate in such conversations?
- When did you first become aware of your heightened responses to certain topics? What shaped those? Have you sought out other perspectives and opinions different from yours to develop a more holistic understanding of the topics?
- Political IdentiTree (Self-Reflection)
The Political IdentiTree was developed by James Madison University. It is meant for participants to self-reflect on their social identities, society, and personal experiences that contribute to their political identities.
- Select this Political IdentiTree presentation (PDF-new window) to facilitate conversations about how social identity impacts political identities and behavior.
- Take Your Political Diagnostic (Activity)
The 4Quads Political Diagnostic Tool provides a frame to understand ideological approaches to public policy. 4Quads uses a scatter plot approach to understanding political differences rather than a linear one. This allows us to see that we are not as far apart from each other as a binary understanding of politics seems to suggest.
- Learn more about the 4Quads Political Diagnostic (4Quads YouTube Channel)
- Request your free digital code to take the diagnostic: email@example.com
- Resources for Difficult Conversations in the Classroom:
- How Faculty Can Prepare to Handle the Post-Election Classroom
- Students Learn Students Vote Post-Election Campus Resource
- Difficult Conversations in the Classroom - links & exercises
- Campus Resource Response Guide (inside and outside of the classroom)
- Brave Space guidelines
- Self-facilitation conversation starters from Living Room Conversations
- World Cafe Method
- Respect Differences? Challenging the Common Guidelines in Social Justice Education
- Anti-Oppressive Facilitation for Democratic Process
- Resources for Identities & Politics:
- Resources for Difficult Conversations in the Classroom: