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Deliberative poll to take place on November 19

On Saturday, November 19, ninety students will participate in CMU's "campus conversation," the first campus-specific deliberative poll in the nation. A scaled-down version of the community deliberative poll that took place on October 29, the campus poll will focus on two main issues: the nature of a diverse campus community, and moral values in campus life in regard to student file-sharing, according to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy (SPPDD) website.

The poll is a joint venture of the SPPDD and the Coro Center for Civic Leadership, an organization that promotes the political contributions of emerging leaders in southwestern Pennsylvania through programs and initiatives like the upcoming campus poll.

The event was coordinated by Randy Weinsten, a Coro Fellow in Local Democracy and 2005 CMU graduate with a bachelor?s degree in philosophy and business.

According to Weinsten, the day will begin with an initial survey and small group discussion from 2:15 to 3:15 pm, followed by an hour-long expert panel discussion and a half-hour-long wrap-up discussion. The day's events end with a final survey. Volunteers will then compare the responses of both surveys to see how the participants were influenced by the discussion and the expert panel's contribution. The poll aims to create an active, diversified social scene and to spark more discussion of important issues among students.

Weinsten credits his interest in policy development to Robert Cavalier, a CMU philosophy professor and director of the University's Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics and Political Philosophy. Cavalier also acted as a director of the previous community poll. "We hope that the deliberative polls will, in the long term, encourage students to move beyond the groups in which they?ve traditionally found their comfort zones and to engage more actively in the issues that confront us as a community," Cavalier stated in a University press release.

Michael Bridges, an adjunct professor in CMU's psychology department, applied his professional background in social psychology, questionnaire development, and survey design as a consultant on the methodological aspects of the poll. He is interested in understanding what drives people's attitudes and opinions, and which subgroups are most influenced by the deliberation. "We want to identify not only people's opinions, but the strength with which they hold them," Bridges said. He also praises the collaboration involved in such interdisciplinary projects, and the chance to interact with experts in different areas.

With luck, Weinsten said, campus conversations like this poll will take place twice annually.

The poll will be held on campus in Baker and Porter Halls from 2 to 5 pm on Saturday. For more information about the campus polls or to be a participant, please e-mail Weinsten at rweinste@andrew.cmu.edu.