SOPHIA is still working on the technical system that we will use to manage our chapters. For now, we will announce our chapters with a post like this one, for chapters that we’ll have made official, such as the Oxford MS Chapter. We have groups around the country, who’ve been working with SOPHIA for years, but we are just now formalizing our new system and mechanisms for making these chapters official. More information will be coming out soon about what’s involved. We will also be offering mini-grants to initial chapters who apply for the support. Here’s info about the chapter in Oxford, MS!
Chapter President: Dr. Deborah Mower
Membership Officer: TBD
Operations Officer: TBD
The University of Mississippi chapter of SOPHIA held its inaugural event of “The Great Debate” on April 27th, 2017. Each year, students from the UM Ethics Bowl Team will address a difficult question and debate the issues for an audience of students, faculty, staff, and all members of the community. This year’s question was “Should the governor of the state of Mississippi declare April ‘Confederate Heritage Month’?”
Governor Phil Bryant has declared April to be ‘Confederate Heritage Month’ in both 2016 and 2017. In 2016, the proclamation was on the Governor’s website with the purpose of the designation: “it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us” [CNN]. In 2017, the Governor’s office did not post the proclamation on the website, but a copy was posted on the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans website [MDSCV and now on their Facebook page]. As stated on the website, the purpose of the organization is “to encourage the preservation of history, perpetuate the hallowed memories of brave men, to assist in the observance of Memorial Day, to aid and support all members, widows and orphans, and to perpetuate the record of the services of every Southern Soldier” [MDSCV’s About page]. In addition, the home page explains that “The citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution. The tenacity with which Confederate soldiers fought underscored their belief in the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. These attributes are the underpinning of our democratic society and represent the foundation on which this nation was built” [MDSCV].
In The Great Debate, audience members were presented with a case with pertinent details, arguments, and concerns on both sides of the issue, along with a copy of common fallacies made in arguments. The UM Ethics Bowl Team each took a side of the issue and presented careful arguments, which were projected on screens via PowerPoint to help the audience follow the intricacies of their position. After the debate presentation, the team members fielded questions first from three guest judges (who modeled the kind of civil and insightful inquiry of the event) and then from the audience designed to clarify their initial arguments and to press follow-up points. After the Q and A and discussion, everyone was invited to a catered reception to continue the conversation informally. Through the clear presentation of claims and civil dialogue, we hope to institute this as a yearly event to demonstrate how to make progress on thorny ethical and political questions in our society through civil dialogue.
For more information about the Oxford MS Chapter of SOPHIA, contact Chapter President Mower.