By Nhial Tiitmamer
Dissent is the focus of intellectual debate this academic year at University of Alberta Augustana Campus. Dissent is about opposing an oppressive status quo, and as the academic theme website describes, dissent is “a central and defining feature of intellectual life and is thus closely connected to the university and its processes.”
For Rani Palo, a history professor and on the annual theme committee, "‘dissent’ moves our world forward. Most of the improvements that we recognize have been spurred on and actualized through individual and collective dissenting voices.”
Indeed, the significance of dissent cannot be underestimated. Today, generations may be living in a much better society than the generations in the past centuries because of dissent.
According to Palo, engagement in positive dissent may help bring to action issues “concerning the environment, poverty, disease, injustice, the status of women in many, if not most, societies.” Some of the landmark historical events which have shaped the way our world is today were helped brought by dissent, and they include, according to Palo, “Emancipation Acts in Britain (1833), the French Empire (1848), and the USA Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.”
Although dissent has played a beneficial role in human society, it has not all been positive. For example, the invasion of Iraqi in 2003 by the Bush Administration is a recent example of a negative dissent, explains Palo.
Asked how human society can engage in a positive dissent, Palo says world leaders should elevate “global dialogue to a higher plane.” He said world leaders should set an example and should work “hard to rise above petty politics … educate and extort their citizens to take action on pressing problems.”
Palo says some of the topics speakers will discuss throughout the year include poverty, war & peace, religion, slavery, race relations, music, pop culture, the laboring classes and politics. Palo will also be one of the speakers, discussing “Slavery and the British Empire.”
The first off-campus guest speaker will be Mrs. Teresa Roane of the US Library of Confederacy. Mrs. Roane will speak on October 1, 2009 about “African American Dissent.”
The theme will be marked by a number of colloquia and several film shows. The first colloquium will feature Augustana Faculty members: Drs. Doris Audet, Neil Haave, and Dave Larson. They will talk on September 21, 2009 about “Darwin’s Dissent with Modification.”
Palo hopes to get “students engaged and fired up.” He said many of the guest speakers will visit classes during their times on campus. Two students, Sarah Haywood and Chad Skinner, sit on the annual theme committee this year and they are working hard to present a series of theme related films to students.