Students share ‘Pint with a Prof’



Torrential rains poured, deafening thunder boomed and lightning crashed as the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI) hosted their second ever Pint with a Prof event at the Octopus on College Hill, Wed., Nov. 11. Despite these less than ideal weather conditions, more than 20 students attended to hear Fernando Calderón speak about student radicalism.

Senior math and computer science major, Aaron Friel, is the president of UNIFI. In addition to serving as a community for “students who don’t have religion or are questioning religion,” Friel stressed the role UNIFI serves in the scientific community.

“We serve multiple overlapping communities on campus,” Friel said. “But there’s also a large pro-science contingent, where maybe religion isn’t so much an issue for them, but they’re concerned about the lack of science and skepticism in today’s political discourse and in society at large.”

According to Friel, UNIFI plans on hosting the Pint with a Prof series about once a month. He said the series has garnered a very positive student response so far.

“I have been so amazed to see so many students looking with rapt attention at a professor — something you don’t often experience in the classroom,” said Friel. “Being able to invite a professor to give a short discussion and do a Q&A on a topic that deeply interests them is really something that UNIFI promotes on campus.”

Friel explained that in the past, UNIFI has mainly featured professor-led discussions as part of their Darwin Week. Now, however, the group is attempting to spread these kinds of conversations throughout the year.

“We’re inviting professors who are interested in a topic to come talk with us,” Friel said. “Topics that we maybe aren’t qualified to discuss in our forums…as students.”

Calderón, assistant professor of history, gave a presentation entitled, “Subversion Comes in the Form of a Student.” In it, Calderón discussed the legitimate power of student activism and radicalism in politics. He also touched upon the perceived lack of credibility that has been attached to student activists.

Calderón delved into these issues through anecdotes and real world examples. He described the difficulties that Mexican student activists like Jose Luis and Dení Pietro faced in the 1960s and 70s.

In addition, Calderón discussed the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in which 43 male students went missing. The students, who were protesting on grounds of discriminatory hiring and funding practices from the Mexican government, were taken into custody and presumably murdered. Calderón used this example to highlight the freedom of expression that students here can all too often take for granted.

After the presentation, Calderón opened the floor for questions. Many of these questions were related to the recent nationwide attention that the student activists at the University of Missouri have generated. Calderón considered these recent events an example of successful student activism, especially in terms of generating attention for a cause. Calderón also answered questions related to the growing trend of political passivity among college students.

After the event, Calderón discussed why he picked the focus of his presentation.

“I chose the topic of student radicalism because it’s something that I think relates to students the most,” said Calderón. “And not only that, but it’s also the topic that I […] focus on in my field. And so when I was asked to do this, I felt that it was the most appropriate topic to discuss, given the fact that there’s a lot of things going on right now in relation to student politics and student activism.”

Junior sociology major and director of activities for UNIFI, Heather Applegate, has organized and coordinated the Pint with a Prof series this year. In addition to the opportunity for students to connect with professors on a more personal level, she is particularly proud of the series’ involvement with the local community.

“[Pint with a Prof] is an opportunity for students from UNI to work with businesses in the community,” Applegate said. “And Dave Deibler [owner of the Octopus] has opened his door. He’s been very welcoming and very excited — arguably as excited as I am.”

Calderón spoke about the importance that events like Pint with a Prof have on the university.

“These types of student-led forums, where topics are discussed that are very sensitive and very controversial are what make the university such a vibrant place,” Calderón  said. “I think that’s how solutions are made, and, at the same time, I think that’s how we grow as a society.”