On February 26, Interim Dean of the College Joyce Bylander sent an email to introduce the Looking Back – Moving Forward listening tours. The tours were organized by Dean Bylander, President Wendy Raymond, Provost Linda Strong-Leek, and Co-Chief Diversity Officer Raquel Esteves-Joyce under the initiative of THRIVE (Truth, Healing, Resilience, Inclusion, and Equity).
The college collaborated with Mitzi Short, CEO of New Season Coaching & Consulting Group, who facilitated the meetings. Short has been working with the Board of Managers on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training and facilitates the DEIT (diversity, equity, inclusion, and thriving) leadership program for faculty, staff, and students.
Dean Bylander’s email outlined six total listening tours: one for faculty, one for exempt staff, one for non-exempt staff and three additional opportunities for students to attend. The purpose of the student listening tours are for students to share their experiences with racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it affected their fall 2020 semesters.
The first of the student meetings took place on Tuesday, March 9 from 7 to 8 p.m. The second one took place on the following Thursday, March 11. Both were held over Zoom. Khalil Walker ’23 and I were the only two students present at the second meeting. For the student sessions, the turnout was light, which may have been due to Zoom fatigue and an influx of emails.
During the second meeting, Walker and I talked with the administration about our experience during the past semester and brainstormed ideas on how to move forward as a community. The focus of the meeting was the strike and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the wake of the strike, Walker said that he felt there was a lot of criticism and negativity circulating on campus. “A lot of people had just been building up this anger towards just the general community, not even just, you know, what’s been going on in the country but just generally at Haverford,” he said.
With regards to the pandemic, Walker thought that the students could benefit from increased psychological services and having an outlet beyond campus. He mentioned that increased opportunities for social interaction such as practice spaces for arts, music, and athletics could help bring our community together.
Though there are “plenty of students that love the student agency of Haverford and want to do things on their own […] There’s also plenty of students that want the administration to be more involved and more engaged in their daily lives just because there was just such a lack of control last semester,” Walker said.
For Walker, the disconnect between the administration and the student body makes it hard to move forward as a community. However, he believes that through more honest conversation “there definitely is a way for the school and student body to move together and find the core Quaker values of Haverford again.”
The opportunity to engage with administration in open dialogue is something that many do not experience during their college experience. Dean Bylander shared that the administration is working with Short to decide whether they want to schedule a third tour synchronously, or to cancel the third tour and send out a feedback form. Regardless of the method, it will provide students another opportunity to voice their opinions and collaborate with administration.