This year’s Upper School Day of Dialogue—Facing Privilege: Identities, Inequities, and Experiences—offered an array of student-led workshops, advisory activities, and a compelling panel discussion, which kicked off the day and featured Rosy Galvan, Joseph Green, Tom Guglielmo, and Summer Nasser.
Director of Equity and Inclusion Courtney Cothran-Fenner thought that this year’s panel was the strongest yet: “They didn’t all agree. They gave a master class in how to disagree, asking each other for clarification and more context.” Questions from the panel discussion resonated throughout the day: What does privilege mean and what does it look like? What lessons can we learn from the past? and What is the cost of privilege?
Like many events this year, the Day of Dialogue was completely virtual due to COVID-19. While it may have taken some students a little longer than usual to get the discussions rolling, the new format didn’t lessen the impact of the day.
Tenth Grade Dean Chris Miller, one of the faculty organizers, said, “Watching students so capably lead workshops and engage in dialogue about some of the toughest issues facing their generation was inspirational.” In fact, students facilitated 20 different workshops delving into topics such as male privilege in professional sports, socioeconomic privilege, and privilege in social media, STEM, literature, the arts, the music and movie industries, and private schools.
Students took a variety of approaches to structuring their workshops. Emil '21 and Grier '21 co-led a workshop on environmental privilege and environmental racism. They used videos to introduce key concepts and issues. They also delved into particular case studies, including the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and toxic chemicals affecting low-income neighborhoods in California. In Shira '21 and Lilly '21's workshop, students examined literary works addressing privilege and then wrote about their own experiences “with(out)” privilege. And, in “Privilege and the Ability to Maintain Mental Health,” led by Colin '21, students watched a TEDx Talk and then discussed data from a comprehensive study by NCBH in 2018 about access to mental health care.
Seniors Alexa, Katherine, and Myles began planning this year’s Day of Dialogue months in advance. Collaborating with faculty organizers—Miller, Assistant Director of Upper School Nina Candia, and Middle and Upper School Librarian Sonali Kumar—the three students managed almost every aspect of the preparations, from spearheading the selection of the theme and helping students design workshops to managing communications and moderating the panel discussion. Candia said, “They were remarkable, and we could not have done it without them.”
“Day of Dialogue isn’t a break from school but rather an opportunity to reflect on our place in society," Emil says. "Every student has some passion or interest that moves them—what is powerful about Day of Dialogue is that it allows us to use that interest to improve our school and wider society.”
Linnaea '22 reflects, “Day of Dialogue this year stretched my thinking…about how many different people and points of view can contribute to understanding and combating social privileges.” As a result of attending Colin's workshop, Linnaea says that she wants to learn more about the ways that systems in our society contribute to massive disparities in mental health.
This year’s Upper School Day of Dialogue took place on January 5, 2021. The Middle School will hold its Day of Dialogue on February 10, 2021.
Compiled by the organizers of Maret’s Day of Dialogue
What Is White Privilege, Really? Teaching Tolerance
At New York Private Schools, Challenging White Privilege From the Inside The New York Times
The power of privilege Jonathan Kalan, TED Residency
How I Came To Understand My Privilege Leona Prince, TEDxUNBC