Lilian Zheng, ‘19
On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, Jeffery Moss, the Student Union Representatives, and Diversity Initiative Student Leadership Team facilitated a roundtable discussion. Earlier this year, two town halls gathered underclassmen and upperclassmen to discuss their experiences of race at BHSEC. During the first town hall, when 9th graders and Y2s gathered together, the conversation was mainly dominated by the Y2s, who spoke with passion about how they felt in regards to how they were treated because of their race. In the town hall where the 10th graders and Y1s came together, both grades spoke up about their own specific experiences with either their friend group or inside the classrooms. During this town hall, many students also spoke up about their own ignorance and how being passive to these kinds of experiences is also part of the problem. In both town halls, students opened up about their hesitations of speaking up in that specific setting. Both of the town halls were emotional for students and enlightening to both students and faculty. After, many students felt that people often talked about race, but their experiences would be left unaddressed. This question of “what comes next” prompted the Student Union and the Diversity Initiative to collaborate with and create a roundtable discussion about a strategic plan.
The thought of a roundtable discussion originated from the one that was hosted last year by The Diversity Initiative. The first roundtable was created to give students and faculty a chance to discuss a study conducted by two students, Zachary Federman (Y1) and Shannon Khuu (Y1), on self-segregation. Students and faculty then discussed why students often self-segregate themselves and why it was an ongoing issue that never gets resolved.
During the roundtable, a consensus was reached in that every voice is important and to fight in this revolution, we must stand up and begin to love one another. To choose love is to listen to all viewpoints and understand those whom may not share the same beliefs as you. The following question was proposed to the students: On a scale from 1-10, how much do you believe that change can happen (10 being that change will happen and 1 being change will never happen)? Many upperclassmen were pessimistic about change happening, but underclassmen were more optimistic. When the students were asked about what they think a safe environment looks like, many responded with descriptions like united, vulnerable, honest, true community, awareness, discussion, constant self-reflection, and empathetic. While discussing whether change can happen, many students and faculty acknowledged that change doesn’t happen overnight and is done in increments, and that it requires vulnerability.
The Round Table was organized by the Diversity Initiative and Student Union and included both students and faculty (Photo Credit: Ellis Shapiro-Barnum, ’19)
Although a strategic plan was not reached, the roundtable was certainly not the last meeting. Coming up with a plan for the future must remain a priority. A dilemma that a student addressed in terms of being open and vulnerable at BHSEC is that “you can’t be open in a place that does not let you be open.” This comment refers to the constraints that are present in our school environment. Some constraints include the social norms of how a student and teacher should conduct themselves in the presence of each other. Another constraint would also be the fact that what is said has to come out in a way that it is politically correct. Toward the end of the meeting, attendees reflected on what had been said. Some insights were that strategic planning is not easy to do, action starts with a shared vision, and individuals must undergo the process of emptiness. To undergo the process of emptiness means to empty oneself of biases and prejudices to work with others and move forward. This issue of creating a safe environment can’t be solved by one organization and thus everyone must make a commitment to continue the fight by being an ally to other students and to also undergo the process of emptiness.