Day(s) of Dialogue: students to take “ACTIONS” addressing U.S. immigration policy
For 2018, Day of Dialogue will become ACTIONS–which stands for Active Conversations To Initiate Our Next Steps–and there will be no class cancellation for the events. Instead, ACTIONS will take place over several days and will work around classes, raising questions around how to prioritize diversity on campus and of whether there is a correct way to approach making time for tough conversations.
Day of Dialogue was first formed two years ago at NCF to facilitate communication amongst students and faculty. For this day, the college would not hold classes so that students could participate in talks and panels guided by trained students on topics such as coping with trauma, racism and sexism. The purpose for dedicating a day was to allow each talk to build upon one another to cultivate a sense of understanding between community members. This year, the idea is to dedicate the week to the issue of immigration and to have several workshops and to provide opportunities for participants to use what they have learned to act.
The original idea behind the Day of Dialogue was to prioritize diversity by cancelling classes, demonstrating the value of devoting time to having difficult yet important conversations. However, this change could lead to additional time to think about the discussions and the shift towards prolonged incorporation of diversity into New College campus culture and administrative choices.
In order for classes to be cancelled for the day, student organizers would have to bring the issue before the faculty for a vote. Reportedly, faculty members have expressed reluctance to give up the day of classes as it is challenging for them to rework their course schedules to accommodate the event.
“[One] main reason [that classes are not being cancelled for the event this year] was that each year there are at least a few professors who oppose cancelling class for DoD [Day of Dialogue],” thesis student and ACTIONS organizer Lily Solomon said. “It’s a challenge to convince them to approve the event without significant reasons.”
An idea for future events that seek to enhance diversity is to have faculty work with the upcoming day of dialogue and include or relate it in their coursework.
“It would be generous to the faculty to give the faculty time,” Maribeth Clark, professor of Music and previous Day of Dialogue organizer, said. “At the same time you can talk about an issue for a really long time but never get anything done but the way to do it would be to get the students organized to bring it before the faculty and do it early enough such that we can all think about how we can contribute.”
Timing was an issue with this year’s organization of the event.
“We decided to go with a week rather than one full day initially because we didn’t think the Provost would be interested in cancelling classes, especially as Irma set the committee back quite a bit,” Katie Thurson, the New College Student Alliance (NCSA) president and one of the organizers for ACTIONS, said. “The more we talked about it though, the more we liked the idea… having some lunchtime and some night time events allows more people to participate as they like.”
A potential benefit of having several events over the course of a week is increased time to think about the designated issue of immigration. More events also means more opportunities for students to participate.
Another change that ACTIONS is making to the event is in the name. A goal of the events is to give people something to do with the information provided.
“We’re going to come up with tangible things you can do right in the moment,” Elliot Gardner, vice president of Diversity and Inclusion and one of the event’s organizers, said. “[One thing] people had talked about was that they go to these things, the workshops and they come away with a lot of information but they don’t know what to do with it and so that was [a] goal of ours to give people actual stuff to do right then.”
Gardner brought up the ideas of writing letters to Dreamers and calling representatives about immigration as examples. Gardner also mentioned that submission forms would be sent out in the future for students to lead an activity, presentation or discuss their thesis if it is immigration related.
The topic of immigration was picked by the President’s Diversity Committee in order to bring more focus to ACTIONS. The focus on a single issue is another difference between ACTIONS and Day of Dialogue.
There is no single, right way to ensure that New College is considerate of diversity on campus. The premise behind having a day was disruptive to routine scheduling, which was important because it involved sacrifice from faculty and administration for diversity’s sake. When the day was first thought of, however, it was with the goal of the eventual everyday incorporation of diversity into life at New College in mind.
“We’d [the faculty] love to get over the idea of just a day and recognize that diversity or talking about diversity or thinking about diversity should be so embedded in the curriculum so part of every programming event or office that we don’t need a day to do these things,” Clark said, having also expressed the original desire for Day of Dialogue to spur continual consideration for diversity on campus.
“That was another critique from faculty was that it’s a one day thing and then nothing happens after it,” Gardner said. “We wanted to do an ongoing project afterwards, for the rest of the spring so that it wasn’t just a one day thing and then you’re done forever.” He brought up a zine as one of the ideas for continuing dialogue.
Critical to the success of ACTIONS is student participation. Since classes are not being cancelled, it is up to students to take the lead in prioritizing campus diversity by showing up to these events, which will take place from Mar. 26 to Mar. 30. Solomon brought up that this is the last opportunity to attend for those who were involved at the very beginning and that this was a fresh opportunity for lower years to take on leadership roles.
“We really want to encourage first and second years to come to the events, not only to learn and grow now, but so we can find some passionate and dedicated students to take on leadership roles in the future, not only for ACTIONS, but for other social justice related events that happens on campus,” Solomon said.
Student involvement that goes beyond attending is also encouraged.
“Please come out to these events and look out for emails asking for your help,” Thurson said.
The work that this year’s organizers are doing and the work done by previous Day of Dialogue organizers has been very important to this campus. Especially considering the work that New College needs to do before it can say that it is an inclusive institution. It is crucial that the student body actively participates in these events and continues to be mindful of the issues raised.
“The reality of the situation is, our campus has a lot of work to do in regard to becoming welcoming to people of diverse identities [and] underrepresented populations,” Clark said.