The Haverford School’s Diversity Alliance has organized a number of virtual student-centered dialogues and discussions this fall. As the School shifted extracurricular activities to the virtual world for safety reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Diversity Alliance has worked to ensure students have spaces to discuss and debate issues and concerns.
Starting in September, the Diversity Alliance Leadership team, led by co-chairs Quinn Luong (Form V) and Ryan Ngo (Form VI), began holding weekly “Chit-Chat & Chews” during the Upper School lunch period on Tuesdays. While eating lunch with their advisories, students are encouraged to join others on a Google Meet session and engage in open conversation for an hour. Questions or topics are sometimes suggested in advance of the weekly meetings.
On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, the Diversity Alliance held their first Open Political Dialogue, which was attended by more than 50 Upper School students.
“The dialogue was designed to help people on both sides of the political spectrum deal with the stress leading up to Election Day. It was meant to be an open forum to learn more about some of the most pressing socio-political issues right now,” said IV Former Roch Parayre, who helped organize the event.
The topics discussed during this first Open Political Dialogue were: politicians accepting money from corporations; the system of mail-in voting; the Black Lives Matter movement; and climate change. Moderators from the Diversity Alliance first polled participants to gauge their stand on the issue, and then opened up the conversation to whoever wanted to speak on the topic. Speakers were given 45 uninterrupted seconds each.
No matter our individual beliefs, we are a community, and we need to unite and keep having these conversations with each other.
“My advisor broadcast the event in the classroom, and students seemed engaged in the conversation and really cared about what was being discussed, without any malintent,” said Ngo. “Conversations around topics like these can get heated, but we don’t need that kind of thing building in the hallways or study halls. As a Diversity Alliance, we wanted to facilitate an environment where people could bring their passion, but also think of what everyone else was saying.”
“I was very impressed with the younger students who turned out for this event and volunteered to speak,” said Luong. “We have more topics we’d like to cover in upcoming dialogues, and I’d encourage more students to speak next time. No matter our individual beliefs, we are a community, and we need to unite and keep having these conversations with each other.”
Also in November, the Diversity Alliance leadership team debuted a new series during the “Chit-Chat and Chews,” called Truths, which is meant to give students the opportunity to educate others on topics they are passionate about. Luong presented “The History of Asian-Americans and Xenophobia” on Nov. 17, and led a question-and-answer session about how learning this history has impacted others’ feelings about Asian-Americans.
More of these virtual discussions are planned for the rest of the year.
“Through these virtual platforms, we’re actually able to get more people involved and engaged,” said VI Former Nachikethan Srinivasan, vice chair of the Diversity Alliance. “As issues start to get more relevant to people’s everyday lives, it’s only natural that they would permeate inside our school. So continuing to have discussions, and with those who may not share your perspective, becomes more important.”
Photo: A screenshot from the Diversity Alliance's Open Political Dialogue on Nov. 3, courtesy of Brendon Jobs, faculty advisor of the Diversity Alliance.