Addressing the friction that troubled the college last spring, a new Intercultural Center group, Allyship in Action, intends to catalyze conversations among Swarthmore communities. The dialogue that was initiated to address issues of disrespect towards the Intercultural Center is now to be continued and expanded through the group.
“It seemed that there was a lot of frustration, because certain groups felt like their identities were being disrespected and that wasn’t being addressed properly and it led to a lot of really high emotions and frustrations, so this is really just a continuation of the dialogue from last spring,” Isabella A. Smull ‘16, a co-founder of the group said.
Foremost, Allyship in Action hopes to rebuild trust throughout the Swarthmore community by fostering an environment where communication among different communities are open and encouraged. These communications would take the form of weekly meetings, facilitated discussions and workshops. The weekly meetings, open to everyone, are intended to be informal conversations. It is to serve as a brewing ground for frank, constructive dialogues.
“It’s really hard for people to articulate…[the] underlying frustrations that people have,”
It is difficult for people to articulate the underlying frustration that people have Smull said.
“So hopefully these discussions will really just get everything out in the open cause if you can pinpoint the issues that’s when you can actually start to try to make moves to address them.”
The group plans to hold facilitated discussions facilitated by Swarthmore professors will direct conversations to issues ranging from race to gender and sexuality. On October 2, the group will hold its first facilitated discussion led by Professor of Religion Mark Wallace and Professor of Sociology Nina Johnson on race. With these facilitated discussion, the goal is to educate and assist communities in acquiring the language respectful to neighboring communities.
“By understanding the language, a language that makes a space safe, we can hopefully have organic conversations spring up,” Christen B. Hayes ‘16, a co-founder of the club said.
The Allyship may take on a more proactive role by reaching out to communities that haven’t been involved with the IC or the BCC before but are willing to. At times, the club will invite previously unacquainted groups or “unlikely allies” to participate in workshops together as well.
According to Hayes, these actions are not intended to force alliances or opinions on groups.
“The Allyship isn’t really supposed to be about forcing your opinions and the experiences you don’t already have on others,” he said.
Brianna Serrano, the interim director of the Intercultural Center and adviser to the group hopes that Allyship in Action will ultimately bring awareness to the communities of the fact that there are multiple identities that people can relate to.
“It’s important to consider that there are people that are differently abled, that are of a different socioeconomic status, that […] have different cross identities and so making it known that there are multiple identities that people can be allies to [is important],” Serrano said. “Just because somebody may have a cross identity doesn’t mean that they don’t have a privilege or can be an ally to another group of people.”