Embracing Discomfort and Conflict: A Community Time Recap

Conflict is inevitable in a large community, especially one full of people who are so passionate about the world around them.

This week’s Community Time focused on conflict and how to engage in healthy discussion. The Resident Advisors planned a series of statements that were projected onto screens and addressed important topics relating to life in college.

In the open space of the room, we were asked to either stand at one end of the room by an “Agree” sign or at the opposite end by a “Disagree” sign. If we were unsure of our opinion, we were welcome to stand in the middle.


At first the sentences were very personal but fairly straightforward:

I am honest.
I am open-minded.
I am tolerant.

Knowing yourself and coming to a quick decision as to where to go in the room was the initial challenge.

After having an understanding of the activity, the next sentences put on the screen were purposely vague and open for interpretation. In addition, the statements focused on more controversial ideas. Here are a few of them:

I think going to parties is integral to building relationships.
I think experimentation is integral to the college experience.
I think it is harder to be a man than it is to be a woman.
I think that an understanding of God is crucial when doing service.

The use of language was significant in the exercise and truly shaped your opinion of the statement. For example, “experimentation” could be understood in numerous ways. One person could think it means exploring new classes or interests while another could interpret it as experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

As the microphone was passed around the room, we heard from community members who opened up by sharing their thoughts on the statements and why they chose to agree, disagree or remain undecided. While listening to each other and thinking about the statements from a different point of view, we could chose to move to the other side of the room if we changed our minds.


Because the statements were written in the first person, a very personal approach was taken with the activity. We each have unique experiences that shape who we are and the way we think, making us feel strongly about certain issues but open for new ideas relating to other topics.

After over an hour of commotion and engaging discussion, the three final statements gave us the opportunity to once again move to a position on either side of the room but also reflect on our evening:

I am surprised.
I am moved.
I am uncomfortable.

To end the evening, we watched a video interview with Fr. Roc O’Connor, who shared his thoughts on discomfort and joy.

By stepping outside our comfort zone, we learned a great deal about each other, not only in the ways we are different but also how we are the same. Even if we disagree, we know that we are motivated by the desire to be our best selves and change the world.

As we spend the semester learning about social justice issues, disagreements will be expected, so listening to community members and respecting their opinions will help us build a stronger Cortina community.

2 thoughts on “Embracing Discomfort and Conflict: A Community Time Recap”

  1. To present the argument, “I think it is harder to be a man than a woman.” as simply controversial is quite a horrible stance for this article to take. The point of the Cortina Community is to promote a more just society, and to act as if women have it easier than men when they have to deal with lower wages, street harassment, objectification, and the loss of their reproductive rights is promoting an opinion that seeks to ignore important cries for justice.


  2. Alex, thanks for your comment. I think that the stance of the article, and of community time this week, was to make the assumption that whether just or not, people hold a multitude of opinions. Opinions, just or unjust, are probably more dangerous if silently left to fester and grow. It is only when we can put scary ideas into conversation that we can say things like “that is unjust.” The alternative is to let someone silently hold an opinion and act on it, without ever having the chance to challenge it. Your concern is valid, but the beauty of the forum was that people were able to say things like you just said, and be heard by the whole group. Some people don’t agree with you about this (I think they are wrong), but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t also people, capable of learning or of empathizing. This is, ultimately, and educational institution. Education begins with questions, sometimes even un-nuanced questions, not answers.

    Justice must be learned and grown. Many of the ills of our society are latent in those with power. Latent racism, latent sexism, latent ageism, latent you-name-it-evil-thing. While calling them up to the surface might be a frightening endeavor, we’d rather have them on the surface so that we can talk about them and deal with them, then buried so we don’t have to see them or deal with them. Sometimes calling them up means a bit more subtlety and banality than we would like.

    Also, my good friend just wrote this article, which I think you would appreciate:


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