OPINION: An Open Letter to IA Principal Jahoda by SU President Alex Chen

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To Ms. Jahoda,

Town Halls have roots in colonial gatherings and are strictly based in allowing the common people and attendants to voice concerns. I like the idea for having one here, and I also think of it as a delightful play on words. Holding regular “Town[send] Halls” could be a great feature that would strengthen our community.

However, today’s senior Town Hall was neither characteristic of an actual town hall nor a representation of Townsend Harris’s care for students. Instead, it was the first live filibuster that anyone in the school has ever experienced. You turned away and denied questions that were pertinent to the senior class’s concerns, and though during the Town Hall you said you would “stay a few minutes longer if you need to” to answer our questions, you refused to stay after sixth band to speak to the many seniors who remained and did not have class.

I cannot question the value of the Town Hall in being able to inform the student body and address concerns. However, it is clear that you skirted around and downplayed the more paramount concerns regarding faculty treatment. These town hall meetings are not meant for the students; they are just damage control to show your superiors that you are containing a situation that endangers your reputation and career. If you cannot directly answer student questions, then do not hold town halls. You are obstructing the transparency you so frequently say you wish for. To take time away from class, say you are prepared to be open to questions, and then sidestep our concerns, is blatantly wasting our time, especially since the senior class put thought into our questions while we have exams, finals, and college applications to do. The other classes are being taken out of their normal class instruction to hear the same lines that are available to all online. Why should students miss valuable class time for something so accessible?

I suggest you allow all seniors who did not get a chance to ask questions to attend another town hall to give them a proper chance to receive answers. Since the next two are after school, you could stay after until everyone’s question is answered. Otherwise, as representative of the student body, I ask that you cancel the future town halls if you plan to continue to circumlocute. We have given you your time to speak, and I am humbly requesting ours.

If you truly want to gain our trust, we ask you to take the time to earn it. Thus far, few minds have been changed by political rhetoric.

With utmost sincerity,

Alex Chen, Student Union President 2016-2017