Many problems and their solutions are politically polarizing. Certainly, it is difficult to accept the opinions of others when their politics vary so wildly from your own. On Wednesday, Oct. 27, the College Republicans and the Leftists of Wooster attempted to accomplish that feat.
The two groups met to tackle three broad issues: self-defense, worker’s rights and climate change. Split into three discussion groups, the Republicans and Leftists worked together to create action items for addressing these issues on Wooster’s campus. Libby Hall ’23, leading the discussion on climate change, instructed her group to “leave the party titles at the door and have a conversation with fellow students.”
With the meeting’s objective being for both groups to reach a consensus, the Leftists and Republicans both seemed pleased by the outcome. Artemis Swanson ’23 believed that the discussion “delivered far more than ever expected.”
Proposed solutions to the three issues included lighting the ground along Beall Ave. to minimize light pollution while improving visibility along the route, increasing financial transparency to support employees at the College and increasing education about recycling on campus. Discussion then turned to how to best partner with other campus organizations to create programming and action steps to accomplish these items.
In particular, discussions about self-defense and campus safety seemed to return what the groups referred to as “highly feasible solutions.” The current campus contexts, centering the issues of student safety on Beall Ave. and the lasting impacts of the Lowry renovation, were critical to the conversations between the Republicans and Leftists. These issues, at the forefront of many students’ minds, inspired a robust dialogue. In addition to the proposed on-ground lighting along Beall Ave., another solution included developing more common spaces on campus. The removal of the common gathering spaces in Lowry, such as the Pit and study rooms in the Alley, have decreased spaces of “passive interaction” between students. These spaces, the groups argued, exist to create trust between students. Increasing the accessibility and availability of these spaces may have positive impacts on student safety.
Another discussion group, focused on the rights of workers at the College, asked its participants to consider what the College can do to better compensate or improve working conditions of staff, including the dining staff. In these conversations, students focused on the importance of financial transparency, solidarity between students and staff and an education-first approach to the issues. Arguing that students should first be informed of the issues currently facing the dining staff, the group agreed that the solutions to this broad and complicated issue must be centered on developing an understanding between staff and students. The discussion group proposed partnering with multi-cultural organizations on campus to meet this goal.
Other Leftists and Republicans tackled the issue of climate change together. At Wooster, they believe students need more education about the recycling process. Dispelling myths about recycling and creating programming that would encourage students to recycle, the two groups focused their discussions on awareness of the environmental resources on campus. Another facet of the conversation relayed the importance of individual-level decisions to reduce one’s impact on the environment. These proposed measures included reducing the amount of cars on campus or limiting their usage, encouraging students to use the Wooster Transit whenever possible as well as taking other smaller actions, like unplugging electronics when not in use.
Civil discussions were emphasized by both groups as pivotal to making positive change. Katie Fields ’22 clarified the importance of these politically diverse conversations, where an open dialogue is “not only a great way to constructively discuss and search to remedy issues… but also a way to foster cohesion and understanding between the College’s political groups.”
Both groups emphasized the need for more voices to be heard at these discussions. Students who feel motivated by these issues should seek out these spaces to advocate for their campus community and engage with the issues impacting the student body. Highlighting the importance of this work, Swanson ’23 reminds us that “we shouldn’t forget our differences, but we shouldn’t let them limit us from helping the campus community.”