In a summit organized by TSG, leaders of clashing groups came together for peace.
The student leaders who attended Temple Student Government’s dinner Nov. 19 recently reflected on the dinner experience and the new resolution drafted by Student-Senator and Chairman of the Student Life Committee Colin Saltry and Senate President Jeff Dempsey.
The dinner, hosted in the Diamond Club’s Rhoades Room in the lower level of Mitten Hall, was proposed by TSG to open dialogue about what they call a trend of hate speakers being brought to Main Campus. The leaders in attendance came from student organizations All Sides, Hillel at Temple, Muslim Student Association, Temple Students for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine.
“Prior to the event, I was a little nervous as I was not sure what exactly the dinner was going to be about,” said Gabe Toran, president of TSI. “I had an idea from my prior meeting with Jeff [Dempsey] that it would be about the speakers some of the groups have been bringing in, but I was not exactly positive it would be only focused on that.”
Gamal-Eldin, president of MSA, said she was happy the meeting happened.
“I thought the meeting itself was overdue and that it was interesting that we needed someone like TSG to step in,” she said. “But sometimes you need someone in between to mediate and be the neutral organization.”
Husam Qasem, president of SJP, said he thought the dinner would go one of two ways.
“Either everyone is going to be throwing bread at each other, or it was going to be civil like it was,” Qasem said.
At the dinner, the student leaders struck a lively conversation about recent Main Campus speakers who varied in their controversial beliefs about Islamic and Jewish culture. The conversation was even-toned, and although leaders on both sides of the fence weren’t ready to sign the original agreement, everyone worked together to come up with alternative resolutions.
“I think the end result of having everyone come together at least once a semester is a valid [balance] we’re looking for,” Matan Silberstein, president of Temple Hillel, said.
Everyone being able to sit down at a dinner table together and work toward keeping the campus atmosphere peaceful was important to Dempsey and Saltry, they said.
“I think it was a new day for TSG and showed that student government, and especially the Senate, is able to take concerns of students and try to initiate change,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey recalled a moment as he was exiting the Diamond Club: The student organization leaders from both sides were standing in a circle, laughing and talking. Dempsey said he flashed back to the end of last semester, when the Gaza Strip was under attack.
“There were protests, picket signs and people yelling at each other,” Dempsey said. “Looking back on it now, I think [the dinner] was a step in the right direction.”
The new resolution states the student organization leaders, upon signing it, agree to meet every semester to work toward promoting an open atmosphere on Temple’s campus. It’s non-binding and not limited to just the groups that attended the meeting.
“Coming out of [the dinner] with an agreement that says we’ll meet again was a really great thing,” Bryan Mann, president of All Sides, said.
Qasem said he was generally pleased with the new resolution.
The new resolution “humanizes each side,” he said.
“There’s really nothing you can lose from going to it, but I don’t know how much you’re going to gain from it as well,” Qasem added, stressing that friends can disagree and still be friends.
As of now, all organizations leaders in attendance at the dinner plan on signing the agreement.
Joshua Fernandez can be reached at email@example.com.