Time For A Dialogue About Dialogue Night

By: Will Rende

On March 22nd, nearly half of the junior class were marked absent during this year’s One Love presentation, a mandatory student and faculty-led extracurricular program that serves as a platform for discussion on domestic violence. The following week, these juniors, myself included, spent a long lunch watching the program’s film and engaging in discussion afterwards. This long lunch period did not go smoothly to say the least, and a combination of disrespectful behavior by the students as well as faculty concern that the juniors simply weren’t receiving the message brought about the need for another, more serious discussion relating to the topic during 5th period of the same day. Though ultimately I believe the goal of the initiative was achieved, there is no doubt that the problems encountered along the way were avoidable in the first place.

Given the gravity of the topic at hand, the disappointment and anger that came from the program’s faculty organizers in response to the juniors’ overwhelming absence was by all means understandable, yet it left me wondering whether the student perspective and reasoning for being absent was understood. Though teachers were told to “be lenient” with homework the night of One Love, the ambiguity of this demand left an unprecedented number of students in a difficult situation. Charlie J. Shapiro (18’) explains the typical junior’s scenario, saying, “I had athletics from about four to six. With three hours of homework awaiting me, I couldn’t afford to take two hours out of my night, especially in the third quarter of my junior year, which is why I chose to skip the program.” A number of other teachers confirmed that there were no direct restrictions on homework that night.

One Love serves as a representation of a more routine disconnect between the administration and the faculty on the homework policy for mandatory extracurricular events.

In the case of dialogue nights, the administration needs to make a concrete decision about the homework policy. Ideally, a no homework policy on dialogue nights should be enforced, and teachers, regardless of how critical the workload is, need to adhere. If this policy is left ambiguous, as we witnessed with this year’s One Love presentation, students will prioritize homework regardless of how serious the topic is.

Dialogue nights can provide a meaningful and impactful opportunity to become more knowledgeable and responsible about relevant issues as high school boys; the dilemma we are faced with is to what degree these issues should be prioritized over class material. Looking to the future, I would advise the administration to be conscious of the student perspective: having the added stress of homework while participating in these programs diminishes the impact it has on students, and “being lenient” does not translate the way it’s supposed to for most teachers.