EWWW and Union host affirmative action forum

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EWWW and Union host affirmative action forum

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee

John Mauro, Staff Writer

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Members of East Wind West Wind (EWWW) and The Union invited the school’s community and the two other hilltop schools, Riverdale Country Day and Ethical Culture Fieldston, to discuss affirmative action and college admissions on Thursday in the Black Box Theater. 

EWWW is club dedicated to promoting discussions about Asian American identity and diversity within the school’s community. The Union is a club that strives to strengthen the bonds between those of different races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic classes both inside and outside of the school’s community.

The clubs collaborated with each other because they thought that it was appropriate way to address this topic that affects everybody, EWWW Board Member Faijul Rhyhan (12) said.

The summit featured a presentation about the history of affirmative action and a panel, consisting of Director of College Counseling Initiatives Beth Pili and Associate Director of College Counseling Frank Cabrera, who informed the body of college admissions and affirmative action, Rhyhan said.

“[The Union] reached out to us, and we thought it would be a good discussion to have, because when we talk about affirmative action with each other it can get out of hand. It’s a good space to have conversation and keep it under control,” EWWW Board Member Analisa Gagliardi (12) said.

The students did most of the work organizing the event while the advisors mostly oversaw logistical needs, The Union co-advisor Benjamin Kafoglis said.

“Affirmative action is a sensitive issue, politically and personally, for a lot of people. There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding it, such as who benefits more from it and why it was necessary in the first place,” The Union co-advisor Dr. Rachel Mohammad said.

“It’s important for people to be informed about what’s going on and recognize and hear other people’s opinions on the issues” EWWW Board Member Daniel Lee (11) said.

After the Q&A, the forum broke into small groups to discuss what they found interesting.

Tomoko Hida (9) found the college counselors’ explanations relieving, she said.

“Although I’m only a freshman and I won’t need to worry about college for a while, I’m glad they explained the process of selecting applicants and that that there was no need for us to worry about getting rejected due to our race or ethnicity,” Hida said.

It was surprising to learn that only 6% of Americans identified as Asian, said Samantha Tsai (10). “I don’t really think about it because the city, and Horace Mann especially, is a very diverse community, and I’m grateful for that,” she said.

In light of the discussion on privilege, Nyle Hutchinson (12) shared his personal experiences about privilege.

“I came to realize that going to Horace Mann was a privilege regardless of the reason I got in. What was more important were the reasons I should stay. Going to HM was already a way for me to get other people through the door,” Hutchinson said. “We shouldn’t think of our privilege as a burden, but a tool for us to elevate people past their own burdens.” 

EWWW wants to host a follow-up meeting to discuss what happened during the forum, Gagliardi said. “I think it’s our responsibility as an Ivy League prep school to make sure we give [students] the facts surrounding [affirmative action], and from there you can form your opinions around correct information,” Mohammad said.

The Union Co-President Yasmin McLamb (12) loved how well received the panel was in terms of educating people or the history of affirmative action and how colleges look at applications in general, she said.

“I’m glad that there is an effort being made so that students are looked at holistically through a light that considers what their background is, regardless of if they come from a public or an independent school,” McLamb said.

“I thought it went really well,” The Union Co-Vice President Eric Ohakam said. “It took a month to organize, so it really felt like it payed off. I learned something, and but I was especially proud that I heard a lot of other people say they like it.”