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Stubblefield Institute supports campus conversation about Campus Self-defense Act

ISSUED: 13 April 2023

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communication and Shepherd University’s Division for Student Affairs cohosted a Campus Conversation on Wednesday night regarding the effects of the Campus Self-defense Act, a new West Virginia law that goes into effect July 1, 2024.

The event provided opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to share their initial thoughts in small groups, listen to an informative panel of professionals and students sharing multiple perspectives about the new law, and then engage in a conversation about building social trust on campus to maintain the safe community setting.

“I’m really proud of the students and employees who showed up and engaged in the dialogue,” said Cindy Powers, program manager of the Stubblefield Institute’s Listen Learn Engage Initiative. “It was a great opportunity to gauge the campus community’s response to this issue and build connection rather than division.”

Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, president of Shepherd University, provided opening remarks, thanking everyone for attending and setting a tone for civil discussion. Hendrix noted that there is another legislative session before the law goes into effect, so legislators will have an opportunity to provide amendments to the law.

Sen. Jason Barrett, Del. Paul Espinosa, Del. Mike Hite, and Del. Chuck Horst attended the event to listen to what the campus community had to say and to participate in the small group discussions.

“Even if you don’t agree with someone, I think we all would agree that it is helpful to hear the perspectives of others and have the opportunity to share our own,” said Ashley Horst (no relation to Del. Horst), executive director of the Stubblefield Institute. “Being able to engage in respectful dialogue is one of the building blocks of a healthy community.”

The discussion panel featured members of the Shepherd University Campus Safety Task Force, which is guiding compliance with the new law. Holly Morgan Frye, vice president for student affairs and director of community relations, leads the task force. Along with Frye, other panelists included Alan Perdue, general counsel; Dr. Joshua Stout, assistant professor of criminal justice; Wendy Baracka, director of counseling services; Officer Robert “R.J.” James of the Shepherd University Police Department; and three University students, Chloe Bailey, Genevieve Blodgett, and Aaron Mathew, student government association parliamentarian.

Hans Fogle, a Shepherd University alumnus, now the public information officer for Jefferson County Schools, moderated the panel. Dr. Geraldine Crawley-Woods and Stout led the conversation about social trust with the 65 students, staff, and faculty who attended what is the first of several conversations on the Campus Self-defense Act.
A conversation for the community at large is being planned for the beginning of the fall semester.

The Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications serves as an active center for the study and promotion of civil political discourse. We believe that when differing viewpoints are respected and considered in ways that avoid negative labeling, alienation, and silencing, it can strengthen our nation’s ability to solve problems.

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