USC hosted the Veritas Forum discussion yesterday night in Town and Gown. This year’s forum, “Neighbors: A Campus Conversation on Race, Empathy and Faith,” featured guest speakers, Dr. Jody Armour of the Gould Law School and visiting speaker William Tate, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.Veritas Forums are hosted by campus student organizations across 70 campuses nationwide. The forums aim to engage students and faculty members in a dialogue about life’s hardest questions in the context of both faith and Jesus Christ.Though Veritas is a Christian organization, it explores how an individual’s faith might affect their perception on various academic topics.“Many of the students who attend are not Christian,” Varun Soni, dean of religious life at USC, said. “This year’s theme of racial justice and empathy is an important national conversation for all of us to have regardless of our individual faith affiliations.”Typically, Veritas Forums aims to foster academic discussions between one professor who identifies as a Christian and one professor who does not.The Forum invites a diverse group of students who are Christian and non-Christian. Non-Christian groups on campuses are often invited to present the first questions during the Q&A portion of the talks as well as supply additional reading materials for the presenters.Laura Ziesel, West Coast regional director of the Veritas Forum, explained why she believes Veritas is an important component for college students.“We are convinced that these conversations are important to the well-being of students, and that knowing how to have hard conversations in the face of significant differences is a culture-changing skill,” Ziesel said.Each year, student planning teams and presenters work together to decide the discussion’s theme. This year, USC undergraduate students Saharra Griffin and Rachel Victor, as well as graduate students Magadalene Ante Christian Brown and Abigail Jia Er Kang decided the theme for Veritas.In an opening speech, Soni discussed the timeliness of the Verita’s topics for discussion.“Given the recent events in Ferguson and the release of the film Selma, this is a timely conversation for all of us to have, but the reality is that a conversation about racial justice in the United States has always been a timely conversation since the birth of our nation,” Soni said.Questions regarding religious discourse among the black community included the opinion of prominent black female rapper, Azealia Banks, who has compared “black Christians to “Uncle Toms.”Armour asked Tate about [the harmed groups whatever they are]’s relationship with the Bible.“Why should someone from one of these harmed groups find comfort and solace and salvation in this Book [the Bible]?,” Armour said.Tate responded that the issue largely came down to the historical context in the Bible.Furthermore, he contended that the Bible does not identify slavery as a widespread issue but was something acquired in the United States during the 17th, 18th and 19th century. This being said, the scripture was inaccurately used to defend injustice all across the United States.Dean Soni presented the final portion of the forum by asking both presenters to speak directly to the students about ways in which they can think about and practice empathy.The Veritas Forum closed with a benediction by civil rights activist the Rev. Cecil Murray of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.Editor’s note: Saharra Griffin is the news assignments editor at the Daily Trojan.