LINCOLN — A panel that included students, a political science professor and U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse didn’t solve the nation’s divisiveness Monday night, but it did talk of the importance of understanding viewpoints other than one’s own.
About 600 students were at the event at the NU Coliseum in Lincoln, which was for University of Nebraska-Lincoln students only, according to event organizers.
The theme “Why don’t we get along? How Huskers can change the future” was related to Sasse’s latest book, “Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal.”
After a panel discussion, students submitted written questions that were asked by the host, UNL political science professor Patrice McMahon.
For about an hour and a half, the panel mostly avoided talking about politics or policy, but rather ideas on why we don’t get along — and how to fix the problem.
“I think what’s happening now is we’re hollowing out the traditional tribes — tribes of place (as a result of the digital revolution),” said Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, “and we’re trying to replace them with tribes of ideology that are probably not going to satisfy people.
“Republicans and Democrats are crappy tribes,” Sasse said. “These aren’t people who love you and are going to comfort you in your old age. They’re just political parties.”
The panel also included three UNL undergrads: Grace Chambers, Kameryn Sannicks and Hunter Traynor. Their ideas on why people don’t get along included fear, not listening to the minority opinion, and media and social networks that profit off of disagreement.
The discussion was scheduled as part of events in celebration of UNL’s 150th anniversary. The students, McMahon said, “represent the next 150 years.”
Sasse and the students attempted to answer the question: What we can do to lessen divisiveness? Traynor asked his fellow students to “seek out information you disagree with on purpose.” Sannicks suggested staying connected with someone who looks different from yourself.
Sasse said that if people have trouble understanding where others are coming from, they probably haven’t tried hard enough.
As for what universities can do during the digital revolution, Sasse, the former president of Midland University in Fremont, said they should teach students to be lifelong learners — training students for their third job out of college, which likely doesn’t exist yet. He said most tasks within jobs will soon be automated.
Sasse said few people are hyper-political.
He spoke against safe spaces on campus, which “imply you shouldn’t have to encounter ideas that are challenging to you.”