CFI hosts discussion in light of sexual harassment stories

The week that featured the International Women’s Day commenced with an assembly where anonymous sexual harassment experiences of the school community were shared. As a follow-up, the National Honor Society held a discussion session at the Center for Imagination on March 8 to discuss possible solutions for this issue.

Around 40 people turned up, including staff members. The group was split into three rooms, each with a different topic for discourse. One room was to focus on the philosophy of feminism as a whole, another was to discuss practical solutions to protect the school community from harassment, and the last room discussed ways to create safe spaces in the community to help and support students in general.

In the first room, things were heated as students and staff debated the reasons behind feminism’s particularly negative image.

Photo by Aarti Malhotra

Karsten Shaw, Class of 2019, said, “For most guys that I know, we hear the word feminism and we immediately close off.”

This view was reinforced by Yash Kedia, Class of 2021, who believed feminism isn’t actually synonymous with equality.

Kedia said, “I’m actually not a feminist. Feminism is really extreme, especially in the United States, where they have this thing called manspreading.” He went on to explain how feminism has changed over the last century, going from being pro-women to “anti-men.”

Kedia’s remarks were immediately faced by heavy criticism from a large number of feminists in the room.

Mr. Dylan Bach, in an attempt to alleviate the situation, said, “We have to understand that many people do, in fact, hold such notions of feminism, mainly because they are misinformed. The internet has destroyed the face of feminism.”

Mr. Bach’s observations were received with support, from both students and teachers.

Mr. John Robertson said, “We need to understand that some of us benefit from a world we don’t realize takes away from others.”

Students and staff then proceeded to figure out other reasons why feminism has begun to be associated with such radical beliefs.

Chimmi Selden, Class of 2019, said, “I feel like if feminism had a different name, there would be less backlash.”

In the second room, things were less heated as everyone participating was trying to come up with practical solutions to protect the school community from harassment from locals.

Photo by Aarti Malhotra

One possible solution that was brought up was extra security at high-risk areas, mostly on the way to the bazaar. Other solutions included having people constantly patrol the bazaar on motorcycles on open-bazaar days.

Some teachers even suggested that the weight of responsibility also rests on adults to protect students.

“Whether I’m alone riding my bike or I’m with my family, I’m always looking out for students,” Mr. Adam Hubbard said. “We as teachers here have a bigger responsibility than just being teachers inside the classroom. We need to look out for you; we need to protect you.”

Other solutions discussed were the introduction of defense classes and the creation of a transportation system after sunset, so that students walking after PASSAGE do not feel unsafe at night.

The third room discussed ways to create safe spaces in the community so that students feel encouraged to ask for help if they need it.

Photo by Aarti Malhotra

Dorinda Hardage, Class of 2019, said, “If we want to create safe spaces, we need to start conversations so that when you hear people talk, you’re aware that it’s okay to talk about these things. We need to start these conversations.”

The possibility of “pool buddy-system” was also discussed, where students would be regularly reminded that there is a list of people they can approach if they need someone to talk to. This group would include both students and staff.

The night ended with all three groups coming together and sharing the outcomes of their talks.

On the importance of having these talks, Ms. Amy Seefeldt, Director of CFI, said, “I believe when you ask a community, you get a lot of creativity and wisdom, which can be used to move the same community forward.”

Since the discussion, talks of putting up a “security panel” are already in place, with the initiative being led by Jigya Talwar, Class of 2020.

Talwar said, “I feel like when things like harassment and bullying happen, we students don’t really have a specific platform for the victims. It’s not just about telling someone, action needs to be taken as well. That’s why I want this panel to happen.”

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