Participants in the “Conflict Monologues,” an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day event organized by the Student Conflict Resolution Advisory Board, addressed ways to handle various levels of conflict — from roommate problems to issues of identity — in their lives Monday.
About 15 students sat in a circle at the Michigan Union for the event to reflect on the idea of conflict and how to instigate resolution and restoration. Students and facilitators discussed whether conflict and confrontation are mutually exclusive, how identities are reflected in the ways different individuals handle conflict and whether all conflicts are solvable.
Engineering sophomore Suzy Haupt, who participated in the dialogue, said King’s experience with conflict — and his choice to confront it with nonviolence and love — was unique,
“I think that this is a really good event to have during MLK symposium,” Haupt said. “While it’s not the traditional racism talk during MLK day, I think it’s a really important issue that needs to be discussed.”
Though the open forum attracted a diverse group of students, many attendees were resident advisers who were interested in learning more about this particular subject. Haupt, an RA, said she sometimes struggles handling conflict among the residents in her hall.
“I was really looking forward to this event to help me broaden my understanding of different ways to confront them and how different people think about conflicts, so I’ll better be able to help my residents and manage my hall,” Haupt said.
Though the word “conflict” typically carries a negative connotation, the group emphasized how dispute plays a vital role in progress. LSA sophomore Austin Fregene argued that a community cannot grow without discussing contradictory opinions.
“Conflict doesn’t have to be negative,” Fregene said. “It can be constructive, and it doesn’t have to happen right away; it can take time. Conflict is the cornerstone of growth and genesis, of positive things.”
Fregene also said he appreciates events such as this one, where ideas are respectfully challenged, because he believes everyone gains from honest discussion.
“Beliefs are meant to be challenged,” Fregene said. “Ideas are meant to be talked about and things are meant to be discussed. I don’t feel that we get the most out of our lives if we don’t have moments where our beliefs and our ideas are challenged or thought about because that’s how you know that they’re strong — they’ve been tested.”
Echoing Fregene’s sentiment, LSA junior Lauren Shepard, a member of the SCR Advisory Board, said the annual event served to facilitate dialogue and strengthen interpersonal relationships in an open, safe space.
“Without discussion, nothing is going to happen,” Shepard said.
Education junior Samantha Suh said she respected the differences among the group members during the dialogue. She added that she thought participating in candid conversations and empathizing with different perspectives gives participants a level of respect necessary in all situations of conflict.
As an RA at East Quad, Suh said she hopes to educate her residents on the diverse ways to approach and understand conflict.
“I think in certain situations, some people just have no idea how another person can act like that or say something like that,” Suh said. “Investing the time into thinking about the other person can really move the conversation forward.”