Every month you can count on student organizations and clubs at Florida A&M University to advertise a variety of panel discussions that address issues relevant to college students.
Despite the relentless cycle of these events each month, it can be argued that after the doors close for the night, the conversation was in vain.
Panelists may engage the audience in genuine dialogue, but a conversation with inadequate follow-up seems to be a waste of time.
Abani Rollins, a senior political science major, has attended three panel discussions while at FAMU. Yet each time she left the event feeling unfulfilled. She noted that these events often feature people who may be running for office rather than more qualified speakers.
“Generally, yes, people with ‘status’ on campus are the first picks and that doesn't mean they actually know anything. They just might have more influence over the student body,” said Rollins. “Once the panel is over that is usually it. No follow-up or anything.”
A panel discussion is when a group of people gather to speak on an issue and provide feedback and brainstorm solutions to prevent further damage. However, how can you genuinely offer your opinions on possibly controversial issues when you’re trying to uphold a cookie cutter image to increase the number of potential voters?
According to communicationtheory.org, a theory called Groupthink was first defined by Irving Janis in 1972. This theory is defined as, “an occurrence whereby a group comes to a unanimous decision about a possible action despite the existence of fact that points to another correct course of action.”
With this theory there is an idea that individuals aim to be on good terms with their group no matter what the cost is in order to maintain peace.
However, to please the masses, individual critical thinking is sacrificed.
We look to our peers to provide solutions to issues they have no professional experience in. Issues that range from love and relationships, to sexual assault to crucial health-related topics that should require professional input.
It is inspiring to see college students who have great interest in crucial topics, but it is unknown whether or not their intentions are genuine and will they truly benefit the campus – or is their involvement just for personal gain?
I look forward to future panel discussions at FAMU that include new faces who are qualified to speak on the issues at hand. Ensuring the output of factual information should be our first objective rather than exhibiting the same familiar, popular or position-seeking individuals.