First Friday: Packer’s Evolving Safe Space
By Lucy Bernstein and Lila Dominus
On the first Friday of October, a small group of students and faculty gathered to discuss the impact of the natural disaster in Puerto Rico. The discussion was led by members of the Student Leadership Council along with members of Sabores Latinos. These meetings are known and advertised to the student body as “First Friday,” an idea that emerged last year in the midst of the presidential election.
“Last year was a really monumental year in the world and in our country; a new president was elected… a lot came up in our community on all sides, so there was a lot of desire among students, teachers, staff, different folks in our community to really have spaces for discussion,” said Ms. Tené Howard, Director of Global Programs and Community Engagement, one of three faculty leaders of First Friday, explaining how First Friday came to be and its intended purpose in the Packer community.
However, some feel that the vast majority of students and faculty alike neglect the opportunity First Friday provides. There is an overwhelming disparity in the number of Packer students who pride themselves on their community engagement and the number of students who attend First Friday, a safe and open space that is meant to foster meaningful discussion.
“A lot of kids don’t care. From personal experience, not a lot of kids go. The problem is they make it optional, so nobody wants to go, and there ends up being only ten to 15 kids… I think they need to make it mandatory,” said leader of Sabores Latinos Andres Antonio (‘19), proposing a solution to the issue of student investment and interest in First Friday.
Other students, contradicting, feel that making First Friday mandatory would cause contention and still wouldn’t achieve First Friday’s intended goal.
“I think being mandatory would be counterproductive. I think we need to better advertise them, and try and connect them to clubs to get more people to show up,” said Hannah Goncher (‘19), a member of the Student Leadership Council and facilitator of the most recent meeting, suggesting what she thinks could increase attendance.
“I think that there’s a lot that’s mandatory for students, and sometimes introducing that pressure to a space changes the way it is,” said Ms. Howard, who feels similarly to Hannah regarding whether or not First Friday should be a mandatory event.
Although Ms. Howard is not trying to make First Friday mandatory, she does have other modifications and initiatives she hopes it can take, including more collaboration with clubs and student facilitation.
“One of the things that we hope for First Friday this year is that there will be a lot more student facilitation, and I think that will drive student interest a bit more,” she said.
Though how to solve some of the issues First Friday that faces as a relatively new initiative differed from person to person, all could agree that First Friday is a great opportunity for engagement in the Packer community that they hope more people will begin to utilize.