On February 1, 2024, the Community and Equity Office cordially invited Dr. Sa'ed Atshan and Dr. Karen Ross, two scholars originating from Palestine and Israel, respectively. The primary objective of the assembly was to showcase that despite the contrasting backgrounds among the two professors, they are capable of engaging in a fruitful and compassionate dialogue. Through sharing perceptive anecdotes and offering guidance on how to engage in difficult discussions regarding global issues, their insights resonated with the community. However, a lack of productivity and transparency - in regards to the events occurring in Palestine - permeated the assembly. It was signified in the promotions but absent in the planning, goals, and content of the assembly.

The sole notion of the dialogue revolved around, or at least the paramount takeaway was, approaching convoluted conversations involving divergent beliefs with a sense of empathy and compassion. Contrastingly, the Community and Equity Office branded the predominant themes of the assembly to be “peacebuilding, general knowledge, and engaging in dialogue across differences.”

As students who strive for transparency and fruitful learning, we affirm that the contents of the discourse and its organization did not align with our expectations. How was I presumed to attain “general knowledge” if the speakers would scarcely refer to the cornerstone of the conflict to avoid confrontation? Why did the administration need to dedicate an entire assembly about empathy when it is a foundational moral no one is going to oppose? How was I presumed to engage in dialogue across differences when everyone was dispatched to their respective bubbled discussions after the assembly during the debrief session? It is crucial to note that a substantial number of students are unaware of many parts of the Israel-Palestine conflict, as they are potentially not affiliated with it in any aspect. Therefore, I was anticipating a thorough, transparent breakdown. Moreover, it is even more pivotal for the administration to acknowledge that transparency, frankness, and vulnerability are instrumental for strides as a community to achieve accord and clarity.

As a student body, we have congregated for several assemblies concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict and yet, we are still not at the stage where we are willing to be vulnerable alongside each other—indicative of a lack of trust. Students are eager to engage in constructive conversations, but if the administration is more concerned with appearances—a polished Instagram or LinkedIn post—than education and discussions that foster real action and direction, then there is no true space for students to learn. These conversations should be uncomfortable, yet the assembly struck a tone of positivity. This assembly centered dialogue around feelings rather than reality; people are dying as we speak so the administration's discomfort should not be the priority.