'Night of Listening' to bring students, elected officials together

'Night of Listening' to bring students, elected officials together

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln students are invited to take part in Night of Listening, a student-led event to encourage interaction between fellow Huskers to find common ground and become involved in the community, state and nation.

A task force from groups at Nebraska, including ASUN, OASIS and the university's Center for Civic Engagement, has been working since late November to organize the event, which is 7 p.m. Feb. 21 in the Nebraska Union's Centennial Room. The event is co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences.

The mission of Night of Listening, which is a Diversity Dialogue event, is to “create a space for students and elected officials to share with and listen to each others’ hopes and visions for safe and productive communities in Nebraska and nationwide."

The event will feature several elected officials: State Sens. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln; Anna Wishart of Lincoln; John Lowe of Kearney; Lincoln City Council members Jane Raybould, Carl Eskridge and Leirion Gaylor Baird, and a representative, Ryan Broker, from the office of U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). The elected officials will be invited to speak for a short time before opening the floor to students to share their stories and concerns.

Faculty and staff are welcome to attend and observe.

Shelby Janke, a junior and member of the student task force, said the event is bipartisan.

“When there’s a political division in the nation, we feel it very strongly on college campuses,” Janke said. “We want to mend that divide and unite as Huskers and students, and find common ground and humanize the opinions we may be hearing and getting wrapped up in.”

Max Mueller, assistant professor of classics and religious studies who is advising the student task force, worked with Linda Major, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, to help the task force brainstorm ideas for engaging students.

“There were very different reactions following the presidential election,” Mueller said. “Right now, a lot of people are focused on identities and politicians, but we’re more interested in talking about ideas and policies.”

Mueller and Janke said they believe the event could bring groups together to work for common goals, regardless of political persuasion.

“We keep using the phrase, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if,’ and what we keep coming back to. Wouldn’t it be great if students got together and created advocacy groups for issues that are important to them?” Mueller asked.

Mueller said the group is also sharing their planning ideas and a post-event summary with Big Ten schools, with the goal of expanding the Night of Listening to encourage the civic engagement of students across the nation. Jackson Grasz, a representative from ASUN, has presented the idea at a Big Ten gathering of student government members.