Professor Dunn’s TEDxMileHigh talk on diversity

29 January 2019

Valeria Rodriguez

[email protected]

    Professor and Chair of the Political Science department Joshua Dunn was one of 18 speakers at the TEDxMileHigh event at Denver’s Bellco Theatre on Dec. 1.

    Dunn’s talk, titled “What Universities Missed in their Fight for Diversity,” discussed the importance of viewpoint diversity, but ran out of time before discussing all three of his points. His three points involved how to handle disagreements, confirmation bias and why different viewpoints have a financial impact.

    Dunn said that it is important to teach students how “to live with people they disagree with, but also engage in civil but productive conversation with them.”

    “It’s our jobs to prepare students to live in a pluralistic society, a diverse society,” said Dunn. He said that a failure to do so would compromises a student’s education.

    “Without this, students will never really understand what these differences are about, why they matter and where they’ll be able to find common ground,” he said.  

    In order for ideas to improve or develop, Dunn suggested for his audience to have others challenge their biases.

    According to Dunn, confirmation bias is a universal problem where evidence is rejected or accepted because of our beliefs.

    The danger that is found with confirmation bias is that valuable evidence will be avoided if it does not support the initial belief of the individual and  will seek out evidence that does.

     Dunn said that in a research community, if you have like minded people, it is going to be very easy for errors to be overlooked simply because everyone shares the same biases.

    The point Dunn was unable to cover because of time constraints featured on financial impacts. According to Dunn, without the balance of opposing ideas in universities, they could lose funding.

    “If the university is perceived as implacably hostile to one side, the people on that side aren’t going to be very enthusiastic about supporting them, the university,” said Dunn.

     Dunn elaborates that without support and funding towards a university institution, the quality of the higher educational system may be challenged.

    To prepare for the event, Dunn teamed up with a provided coach over several all-day training sessions. During these sessions, Dunn and his coach created a script appropriate for the audience that was to be presented at the event.

    When addressing fellow academics who also prepared a TED Talk, Dunn said, “We’re used to talking to an academic audience where people are familiar with our jargon. You can’t do that with [TEDxMileHigh] audience, but you still want to make certain that they get those ideas.”

    According to Dunn, UCCS has done a good job of remaining open to all viewpoints.

     Basing conversations witnessed from senior administration, Dunn said, “We don’t engage in viewpoint discrimination at UCCS and that’s a bedrock principle of free speech jurisprudence and, of course, I teach civil rights and liberties. Constitutional law is my primary area so that is music to my ears.”

    Dunn added that free speech above diversity of ideas is more important because without protecting the right to the expression of those ideas, people aren’t going to have a robust change of ideas.

    Overall, Dunn saw the TEDxMileHigh event as an opportunity to share his ideas to a different crowd, and improve the valuable skills and the process of preparing as a public speaker.

    “I do hope more UCCS professors would do the TedxMileHigh” he concluded.