Ellie Jornlin ‘22, News Reporter
On a normal day in a normal year, mealtime at Mercersburg Academy is a time to meet new people. Tables are randomly assigned every two weeks so that members of the community have a chance to mingle and form meaningful connections. Students are randomly sorted and tables are seated with faculty and students from different grades, backgrounds and identities.
The era of COVID has prevented the opportunity to gather in the dining hall for meals as usual. In order to gain some semblance of normalcy, a period of time has been carved out every week to for a new form of virtual table seating, “table talks.” This has become a time of conversation and connection between members of the community when we physically can’t be together. Table Talks provide a chance for more honest dialogue outside of regular classes and PGA circles.
This past week, our virtual table talks revolved around the topic of the Conduct Review Committee and its proceedings. Language Faculty and Director of Global Programs, Justine O’Connell explained, “The CRC is important because it allows students to make mistakes and talk through them with an unbiased group of faculty members and students who then work to come up with a restorative solution for the student.” Discussions revolved around finding the best way to approach informing the school on the status and outcome of certain CRC cases. O’Connell comments, “These talks were a time to give students the chance to voice their opinions about the CRC and how information regarding results of the CRC are shared with the community. At my table we asked things like, is it harmful or helpful to share the results with the entire community?”
Finn Sipes ‘22 is a student representative on the CRC committee. Finn explains, “It’s important that these talks take place because we don’t want anything to happen in a way that makes a student feel ashamed, uncomfortable, or put down. It is crucial that we find ways to make that possible, whether it be only releasing information on certain cases, having the student choose who gets to find out, or deciding which faculty members will be allowed to know case proceedings. We also want to reduce the amount of false information and rumors that tend to spread following CRC cases.”
Each table’s conversation went in its own direction, but everyone spent time talking about how the results of CRCs can affect students in different ways and worked toward possible solutions to harmful rumors and the unwanted release of information that can come after a CRC. Some ideas consisted of having a school meeting “role-playing” what a CRC looks like with different scenarios so the entire community is aware of what happens, spending more time teaching students the reasons why you could get a CRC, and deciding which faculty members should be allowed to know results.
COVID has challenged the Mercersburg Academy community in a variety of ways. However, the most difficult part has been the inability to physically connect to one another. While we are grateful for the opportunity to have virtual classes, PGAs, and table talks, students and staff alike look forward to the day when we can commune over a meal in the dining hall.