Addressing Election Season with Civil Discourse

Sunday, November 1, 2020
Students watch election returns November 3 in the Simon Student Center

The theme for this year at Mercersburg is “Making a Difference,” and before, during, and now after this year’s U.S. election, Mercersburg is showcasing the importance of civic engagement by hosting sessions that focus on dignity and respect and giving students an opportunity to openly (and appropriately or respectfully) offer their thoughts around this year's election.

All students exercised their right to vote (on campus) by voting in Student Council and Class Council elections in late September and early October. 

On October 14, the school meeting focused on the importance of voting and civic engagement, and featured Mercersburg alumni Sam Rodgers ’11 (a candidate for the New York State Senate in November) and Nancy Abudu ’92 (deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Voting Rights Practice Group).

Throughout the month of October, employees attended optional workshops on dignity and respect and how to have difficult conversations, and advisory groups have  discussed what students’ thoughts or feelings are around the election. Optional watch parties were held October 22 (for the final presidential debate) and November 3 (as election results came in). 

On October 21, the school meeting (held by advisory groups) was an allegorical exercise on election-related topics, titled “Rhinos and Unicorns.” Students learned about the danger of hearing just one side of a story through a simulated town meeting, with participants representing different sides of an issue. The exercise led to conversations surrounding compromise and helped students work together to build bridges while minimizing labels and judgement. 

L-R: Andy Armbruster ’21, history faculty member Allison Stephens, Addie Geitner ’21,
Carina Cole '22, Maddy Stang ’22, Rose Potter ’21

On November 4, a post-election school meeting was held in small groups, including a variety of sessions available for students to process the ongoing results together in different formats. 

Additionally, a group of student leaders worked together to provide resources for fellow students to help them research candidates’ positions and (for students of voting age) how to register to vote. The students included Addie Geitner ’21, Dylan Gantt ’21, Rose Potter ’21, Carina Cole ’22, and Andy Armbruster ’21. Listen to our Making a Difference: Student Edition podcast to hear more about their project. 

Other Mercersburg podcasts this election season include the Election Roundtable Discussion with students across the political spectrum and Perspectives on Voting with insights from two of our seniors.