The Young Republicans and Young Democrats leaders have taken steps to increase communication between members of the community who lie on opposing sides of the political spectrum in recent months.
One initiative that Raegan Hill ’19, Shreyas Sinha ’19, and Mason Horton ’19 specifically pursued with this intent is “Change My Mind,” which took place on Apr. 29. At the event, students sat around tables and discussed several political issues, ranging from gun control to the wall along the US-Mexico border, with the guidance of a student leader.
Addressing the importance of the Change My Mind event for the Deerfield community, Sinha stated, “I believe that the effort to produce bipartisan relationships should start at the high school level; we’re all students learning about the world and still developing our opinions and ideas about political issues.”
The core of both clubs lies in instilling the confidence to both speak and listen comfortably. Rather than narrowing that newfound confidence to dialogue between students who share the same views, Hill, Sinha, and Horton, in addition to Nora Markey ’18 and Marco Marsans ’18, decided to expand conversations to include students on opposite sides of the spectrum.
Sinha described the effect of previous smaller-scale bipartisan conversations conducted on campus: “In the joint meetings we hosted during winter term, it would be very common for people to disagree with members from their own club while finding themselves agreeing with those from the ‘opposing’ club.“
Hill added, “I’ve found that students are actually more alike than different when it comes to our views.”
Hunter Keller ’20 expressed that she felt that the “Change My Mind” event was successful in raising awareness on key issues and promoting dialogue.
She said, “[I thought that] students left with a fuller knowledge on the issues and a better understanding of where their fellow students stand.”
Sinha reminisced on the valuable conversations he witnessed at the event. He noted how several students approached him after attending “Change My Mind,” and expressed how their opinions on topics such as a US-Mexico wall or gun control evolved after listening to their peers’ alternative perspectives.
However, Samara Cummings ’20 shared a differing opinion on the value of the event: “I did not think it was that productive. Although we shared our views and there were different sides at the table, people were just stating and restating their points over and over.”
Cummings continued, describing how she felt that the students at the event refused to acknowledge other perspectives: “[It was] as if they were talking to walls, rather than actively listening. No one stopped for a second to really listen and empathize with each other.”
While the goal was never to force students to actually change their minds, the “Change My Mind” initiative aimed to take a crucial first step towards tackling the stigma around political discourse on campus.
Hill stated, “People shy away from it because they don’t want to step on people’s toes.”
Sinha elaborated, “With people finally understanding each other’s beliefs, we reduce politics from a sport of moral superiority to what it is supposed to be: an engagement in various schools of thought.”