“In Support of Democracy”: AllSides Debuts on Campus

On Friday, Episcopal’s McCain-Ravenel Center for Intellectual and Moral Courage brought together members of the leading campus political groups for structured, respectful discussion about important matters facing the country. 

The conversations included members of the Government Club, the Young Republicans Club, and the Young Democrats Club. The discussions were arranged as part of Living Room Conversations, a program sponsored by AllSides, an organization that aims to bridge divides. AllSides was founded by Internet pioneer John Gable ’83 as a news-aggregator to provide balanced news from the left, center, and right. It also works with schools and communities to promote civil discourse outside formal political settings.

During the evening event, students were randomly assigned to breakout rooms to discuss their views on voting and their political upbringing. Jeremy Goldstein, executive director of the McCain-Ravenel Center, said that the Living Room Conversations format gave students a chance “to pause and get to know each other as people, respect airtime and opinions, and nurture a respectful conversation with multiple perspectives on current issues.” 

Peter Hood, president of the EHS Government Club, which has 100 members, said that the event “created a civil and calm environment to listen to others. I hope that everyone was able to learn how to live in an environment where you can discuss complex topics and sometimes be wrong.”

Leslie Reyes García, president of the 50-member Young Democrats Club, agreed that "connecting the three groups is going to be really helpful moving forward. It’s important to know where everyone stands on even basic issues like voting." Reyes García noted that instead of dividing the political clubs on campus, this programming will help the groups come together to create effective dialogue.

The emphasis on respectfully hearing each other out was a common thread throughout the sessions. Isabel Schneider, president of the Young Republicans Club, which has 105 members, wrote of the importance of “finding the common ground that you share with others.” She added: “I always find it so cool when I can relate to someone whom I do not necessarily share beliefs with.”

This event was a pilot for additional AllSides programming at EHS. Goldstein added: “As a community of educators, we are working hard to connect students with opportunities like these that will impact the world beyond the campus through thoughtful listening and dialogue in support of democracy.”