An old-fashioned courtroom drama is coming to Purdue in September, but the jury is already here.

It’s the audience—students, staff and faculty—who will grapple with complex issues such as race, religion, gender, class and the law. It’s the viewers who also will determine the trial’s outcome, after holding their own preconceived notions under a more objective lens.

DEFAMATION, a play written by Todd Logan, will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 24, in Loeb Playhouse. Admission is free, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.

The event is co-sponsored by Purdue’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion; Diversity Ambassadors; the College of Science Diversity Office; the School of Interdisciplinary Studies; Purdue’s Cultural and Resource Centers; the Office of the Dean of Students; Convocations; Honors College; University Residences; CILMAR; Span Plan Nontraditional Student Services; and Student Success Programs. The list of sponsors is extensive because, as Annette Watters put it, fostering a climate of respect and inclusion is not the sole responsibility of one department, but is the shared responsibility of the collective Purdue community.

“I believe we made our students a promise,” says Watters, diversity outreach project manager in the Division of Diversity and Inclusion. “When students signed the dotted line to come to Purdue, we told them we would make them global leaders and that they would be able to go out in a diverse world and work with people who are different from them. As our campus community is one that is vastly diverse, it is also imperative that faculty and staff have the capacity to work with persons at every level who are different from them. It’s my hope that those who see the play will leave just a little more open-minded than when they came into the event, and hopefully build some capacity to have dialogue about these issues with people outside of their inner circle.”

Watters says the play features themes that may be difficult for some to discuss, but that are nonetheless urgent to address in the context of today’s political and social climates.

“In a national climate that exposes polarized, ‘us versus them’ views, it is necessary to engage in conversations that lead to better understanding and healthy discussions on and across difference,” she says. “This production provides a safe space for the audience to grapple with hot-button and polarizing issues in a manner that is engaging and conducive to learning.”

Zenephia Evans, director of Purdue’s Science Diversity Office, is most looking forward to the post-show discussion, which she says may help some participants verbalize the self-regulation that ensues as they make decisions around difference.

“In order for us to address the hidden biases, we must be willing to understand and manage the cues that allow these biases to influence our behaviors, thoughts and words. Hidden biases that are nourished and left unchallenged will not allow us to take giant leaps into bridging the divide of difference that can separate on the bases of race, class, gender, religion, socio-economic status, for example,” Evans says. “Homogeneous environments propagate biased, negative thoughts that do not transfer to heterogeneous spaces or allow people to interact. Attending this event will allow individuals to verbalize and share the self-regulation processes.”

Jazmine Clifton, who attended last year’s presentation, says one of her biggest takeaways was the importance of compassion.

“The people and events portrayed in the play could exist in our day-to-day lives,” says Clifton, a Student Success Coach for Purdue Promise. “For me, it underscored the importance of asking questions, being patient, listening to people’s stories, understanding their backgrounds and appreciating where they’ve come from.”

Last updated: Sept. 6, 2018

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