By Peter Bloch
Recently, captains from various OES sports teams stood up in gathering to sign their names on Policy Board’s newest creation, the Student Leadership Pledge.
Unlike a formal policy, this amendment is not a change to our student government, but instead attempts to normalize a precedent for how we respect our peers when it comes to identity.
The pledge was:
As a student leader, I understand that my leadership:
- Serves the needs of the OES community
- Has the power to influence my group members and student culture through the example I set in public and private conversations and settings
- Reflects OES at all times and places
I commit to respecting everyone by:
- Refraining from racist, homophobic, sexist, or other discriminatory language, behavior, and humor
- Actively encouraging inclusive and nondiscriminatory language, behavior, and humor
Recently, Annie C. ‘18 reached out to me, stating that this process is an attempt to prevent another “Evarglow” incident in which harmful language is used in a public setting. Annie also noted, “the Deans of Students have received an increasing number of reports about students using racist, homophobic, and sexist language on social media, texts, and face to face. These cases involving the use of certain discriminatory words around the school further reminded Policy Board members that this was not a matter to be put off anymore.”
“We wanted to shift the community culture so that everyone understands their power and positive social influence they have, and so each of us plays a role in upholding the core values of OES. We created this pledge with the idea of making OES a better place. It aims to directly address the issues we have been witnessing. We must all be aware of what is going on around us, and to preserve the OES culture of keeping an open mind to everything. We want not only every member of the community to pay attention to their behaviors in every way at all times, but also to stop others from doing, or saying things may cross the line. Jokes with discriminatory language or references are no longer fun or relaxing when they become offensive and distressing to someone else.” – From Ekki’s chapel speech, 11/29
Personally, I believe that while this unspoken rule is a step in the right direction, I believe the choice implement it informally is a curious decision. While they could have easily told people to conform to these guidelines, we have instead been asked by Policy Board to abide by these rules. For many, avoiding homophobic, racist, etc. behavior will be a no brainer, but I feel that the message behind it cuts much deeper. It is a shame that our school would pick on a marginalized group, and I think that is much of the purpose behind an informal policy. Instead, we are challenged to be better people. For that reason, I think this policy is not only most appropriate, but most likely will have the most effective long term results.
Policy Board is also planning to host a training session in which people can learn more about how to improve their skills for anyone curious in how to have more respectful discussions. Lastly, they would also like to invite both the student body and the faculty to sign the pledge to show their solidarity on the matter and help prevent further instances of mistreatment.