Forum encourages debate, diverse political viewpoints

Olivia Lamberti, Staff Reporter

From working with Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign to debating geopolitics with Model United Nations (MUN), Daniel Bien ’18 isn’t afraid of confronting controversy within current events. The Forum, an event that aimed to foster frank political discussion, seemed tailor made for a student like him.

“I thought the Forum was a fantastic way to have my opinions heard by my peers,” Bien said. “It brought in something we don’t see often.”

During the April 13 event run by Diversity Council, conservative and liberal students debated contentious issues, including the existence of white privilege and whether abortion is moral. Abhiram Kakaturu ’18, co-head of the Forum, believes that leftist perspectives are often amplified at Stevenson and hoped to expose participants to a more diverse range of political positions.

“We do live in a bubble and I wanted to try and pop that bubble,” Kakaturu said. “In the interest of real democracy, we want to be able to hear everybody’s opinions.”

In the past, David Terpay ’17, who identifies as a moderate conservative, has used social media to share his beliefs.

He thought that the Forum provided an opportunity for a wider audience to be exposed to a right leaning point of view.

“I think that there is an underrepresentation of conservatives at our school,” Terpay said. “There’s this misconception that all conservatives are bad people, which isn’t true.”

Since the most recent presidential election, Terpay has experienced hostility during conversations with liberal students. But desires for open discussion existed long before November.

Dr. Marla Susman Israel, a diversity specialist at Stevenson, stressed the enduring importance of events like the Forum.

“These conversations have been going on a long, long, time,” Israel said. “They may have come to the forefront for everyone after the election, but these issues started long before.”

Overall, Diversity Council and its sponsors were pleased with student turnout and hope to turn the Forum into an annual or biannual event.

Though future iterations may take on a different format, the club will continue to strive for respectful, fact-based discussion that considers numerous perspectives.

“Whether you agree with it or not, you have to respect their opinion,” Bien said. “That’s the most important thing about the Forum.”