Issues arise at Social Justice Week workshops

English+teacher+Christine+Himmelfarb+converses+at+a+workshop+with+seniors+Ava+Eggner+and+Ben+Sachs.+

Elliott Taylor

English teacher Christine Himmelfarb converses at a workshop with seniors Ava Eggner and Ben Sachs.

Berk Oto, Editor-in-Chief

Despite reminders from teachers and workshop leaders, U-High community norms for sensitive discussions were violated several times across at least two Social Justice Week workshops on April 21, and the events left organizers and some other attendees frustrated and expecting more accountability.

A group of students laughed throughout the “Coming Out and Identity” workshop, which was organized by Spectrum and led by sophomore Alex Fogel and junior Martin Oliver. The discussion-based workshop was about the challenges of coming out as LGBTQ+ to family and friends.

During the workshop, they were laughing a lot during inappropriate moments. They were being disruptive to the point where it affected the rest of the group, but we didn’t feel like we could do anything about it.”

— Martin Oliver

“As soon as they walked in, they were very loud and on the verge of being disruptive,” Martin said, referring to the disruptive ninth grade students. “During the workshop, they were laughing a lot during inappropriate moments. They were being disruptive to the point where it affected the rest of the group, but we didn’t feel like we could do anything about it.”

After the workshop, Martin and Alex received an apology email from at least one student. The student apologized for his disruptive behavior but claimed that he and his friends were talking about an unrelated funny subject and he couldn’t help himself from laughing. Martin thought the apology was not enough to address the issue.

“It’s treating the problem as if it’s surface level, when in actuality it seems like the case is that you and your friends came here to cause disruption and see if you could figure out who was gay,” Martin said.

Both Martin and Alex said they heard later from multiple workshop attendees that the ongoing disruptions created a hostile environment where people didn’t feel safe to speak openly about their identities and experiences. Margaux Einhorn, a senior who attended the workshop, echoed this sentiment.

“Their laughter at the beginning when one of the presenters said their chosen name and pronouns set a bad precedent for the rest of the workshop that discouraged people from speaking up,” Margaux said. “The thing that broke my heart the most was the kids who might’ve been in this workshop to look for a community or positive reinforcement on their identity.”

At the “Misogyny in Rap” workshop, a calm discussion turned into chaos, resulting in similar consequences for facilitator Anika Gupta, a junior. Although the first half of the workshop was calm, community norms were quickly ignored as students began yelling their opinions about hip-hop at each other.

“One second it was quiet and I was trying to get people to speak, and the next it just devolved into… chaos,” Anika said. “No one was listening to each other, and I didn’t know how to regain control of the room.”