By Muad Algadafi, UWCM
December 16th, 2017
[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]The last semester held several memorable occasions for our UWCM setting. The past months our college has taken significant strides towards developing a sense of community. But we might forget the most significant moments when we live our week-to-week lives so often seen in school environments. To mention a few: the count of influential speakers coming to campus has grown, allowing us to engage in more discussions as a community. The physical and online presence of this paper has also given everyone a chance to voice their opinion on a subject matter. We also saw our football win a competition in Eindhoven and bringing back a trophy for everyone. Moreover, the past few months we have also dealt with many difficult issues together such as last week’s Brie Mathers’ presentation, the bomb threat in October, the Zwarte Piet discussion. The combination of UWC and Peace Day saw our student body get a taste of their impactful nature through service. All of these experiences have indeed allowed us to come together as a community, but as the break comes near it also seems the ideal occasion to reflect on the aspects where our evolution as a community is left wanting: the actions that follow our discussions.
Despite the many events where we proclaim our pride of UWC-values, we seem to be obstructed when it comes to the putting our words into practice. Two instances that highlight the need for reflection are the perhaps the most memorable events of our December month: YES conference and the Brie Mathers Presentation.
The beginning of December saw a conference without an external venue, a break with the traditional framework of our conferences. The conference, compelling in its execution, drew the attention of many of its attendees and facilitated the discussion necessary to concern the ever-growing problem in our world regarding our lack of environmental sustainability. The opening ceremony included one speech that resonated in the ears of the listeners and set the tone for the events to come. The two words “sorry world” followed by an emphasis on the many harmful consequences our actions impose on our environment started the speech. But the tone quickly changed from regretful to inspirational, inciting a will to act and unapologetically strive to rectify our wrongdoings. The theatrics were, without doubt, captivating, yet now as the conference has passed, so has the enthusiasm that coupled its presence. Unfortunately, the urgent issues of climate change and global warming are not so passive and, thus, as our mission entails, it becomes our responsibility as a UWC community to be a part of a solution. In this instance, the success of the YES conference organisers is one to debate.
The enthusiasm and excitement spurred by the interactive sessions and workshops guided students and staff towards taking action to become more environmentally friendly, but did we waste less food in Mensa the following Sunday and did we follow the advice given to us by the EAG? It is indeed the whole community’s responsibility not to be passive, and so the YES-conference’s organisational team is not to be blamed. It is merely valid to point out that we as a community can come together for several days to address an issue, and then fail to implement whatever we found to be the solution.
The week that followed the YES conference saw the atrium host a rather unique setup of our community. Indeed, we saw a peculiar combination gender separation and a vertical grouping of our MYP and DP community as our Wednesday and Thursday evenings were dedicated to two workshops lead by our enthusiastic guest, Brie Mathers. This gender-based separation was to the immediate distaste of many members of our community, and the ‘shallow’ approach taken on the sensitive topics discussed were promptly met by the critique of our female community. The Thursday afternoon saw an appalling reception from the predominantly male audience. It was an unfamiliar depiction of our community and, surprisingly, was initiated by the younger students in the audience. This specific instance is dealt with in more detail in the article “Thoughts on Brie Mathers’ Talk on Masculinity” also in this paper. This behaviour, if anything, served to highlight the need for reflection on our position as a whole school UWC: Where do we stand, as a whole school community, relative to the ideals our movement projects? This unjustified hostility towards a female guest speaker already offers a partial answer to the question, and its completion lies in our action to better align our community’s reality with our values.
While this festive season brings joy and comfort to many, it will hopefully also bring some reflection. We are an ambitious community, and we do very well at living most of our values, but the instances emphasised in this article are only the two most recent of a more extensive bunch. Despite being a largely understanding and wary community, there is definitely space for improvement. So, be it YES conference or Brie, both spurred heated discussions in their own way and it is now our responsibility as a community to strike the iron while it’s hot, and mould the community we want to be.
Muad Saleh is a second year student at United World College Maastricht. Muad has been a part of the Flying Dutchman as a writer since September 2017.