Unity Challenge: Replacing Political Fight with Collaborative Problem Solving

Last updated March 6, 2024

By Web Admin

In an era of political polarization, Dr. Liz Smith wanted her students in her Introduction to Government class to not only understand the principles and institutions of government, but understand the viewpoints of others with different political perspectives. Fall semester, 41 students participated in the Unify Challenge College Bowl, sponsored by  Unify America. Students had the opportunity to engage in a thoughtful, deliberate online guided conversation with a student from another college who held political views different from their own. This year over 4,000 students from over 100 universities across the country participated. Nationally, student feedback indicated that 86% of students felt “heard and not judged when expressing their viewpoint” and 84% rated the experience an 8 or higher on a 10-point scale. One Furman student wrote in his reflection paper on this assignment that “Oftentimes, and I know that I am guilty of this as well, we go into political conversations with the goal of ‘winning’ the conversation either by convincing the other person that our point of view is correct, or by so completely dominating the conversation that we convince ourselves even further that we are right. That, however, is not a constructive conversation. The Unify Challenge facilitated constructive conversations … I think that it would be a very good thing if colleges and universities started implementing and highlighting opportunities such as the Unify Challenge across their campuses to help facilitate respectful speech across the aisle.”