[H]ow many people know about the International Issues Discussion (IID) series? Probably not enough.
Arne Kislenko of Ryerson’s history department co-founded the IID back in 2005 with a colleague, Dale Carl, hoping to bring “objective, reasonable discussion about sensitive issues” to campus.
Kislenko said, “A couple of excellent students of mine taking business and commerce (of all things) asked if they had a forum on campus for current affairs. We didn’t really, not a very organized one.”
With that notion, they created the IID series: a place for students to discuss everything from terrorism, foreign policy, modern-day China, Afghanistan, the news, and intelligence in Canada.
Kate Grisdale is a fourth-year arts and contemporary studies student who co-ran the IID for the last three years. She noted that students have many commitments and that the IID is ideal for those who may not have had the opportunity to study these topics in their program.
“We do our best to bring speakers on a variety of international issues and it’s free to the public,” Grisdale said.
“Essentially, we try to bring a flavour from whatever’s current and also what people are interested in.”
In order to come up with speakers and themes, the IID team does research and is often approached by students looking to hear about a certain subject.
Kislenko said that the problem with a lot of Ryerson groups was that students were being told what to think rather than to develop their own opinions.
“Too many students, their opinions are derived from God knows what,” Kislenko said. He noted that television and the internet was a viable source of information, but not necessarily helpful for a well-rounded perspective.
He added that the best way to gather an opinion was by listening to top experts in their field who weren’t trying to win the students over and by having civil debates with likeminded peers.
“What I think my favourite thing about the IID is that you can come hear a variety of perspectives, challenge your own perspectives and come and be surprised,” Grisdale said.
She said an example of a controversial topic gone well was a forum held two years ago on Israel and Palestine.
“We were cursed enough to take it on,” Kislenko said laughing. He said the outcome was “remarkable,” that Ryerson was one of the first university campuses to take on that subject without resulting demonstrable violence.
Grisdale said, “We were told that perhaps it wasn’t possible, but we believe Ryerson students are mature enough to handle conversation.”
Groups of approximately 100 now congregate on the odd Wednesday for these discussions. The particular message the IID stresses is objectivity and friendly interactive discussion with a community-based feel.
“It’s not pro and it’s not con,” Grisdale said. “We try to get individuals who speak to the grey, as that’s where the story really is. Nothing is really right, and nothing is really left, and that’s the eternal struggle of the IID. Hopefully people like it.”