Hot Topic: Symposium Club


Symposium Club on 9/8/21

A gathering of people who come with one goal: discussions of a particular subject, is the main premise of the Symposium club on campus. 

Symposium club, meeting every Wednesday, is a club that encourages conversation amongst students on their thoughts, opinions and emotions, and offers students a place to express themselves.

“My vision for this was to bring everyone together, to see how the other half thinks,” advisor Sebastian Pepperel said. 

Some students feel afraid to share their opinions, in fear of starting unnecessary arguments and feeling uncomfortable. Seeing as how opinions have become polarized, it feels as though there is no space in school or online to be heard for how they felt. 

“We’re not here to argue we’re here to understand… this person [and their opinions],” President Lucas Rodriguez said.

Pepperel shared that the symposium strives for a cooperative environment, rather than a competitive environment. The idea for the club arrived to Pepperell after the insurrection of the Capitol on January 6. As a social studies teacher, Pepperel figured that students wanted to talk about issues alike, that are at times not always safe or appropriate to do in class due to going off topic or having discussions that are questionable for a teacher to cover. 

“Our goal is that we’re not trying to necessarily win a debate… we’re not trying to win, we’re just trying to meet on a common ground,” advisor Sebastian Pepperel said.

“I think talking about [these topics] is the first step into being more open minded,” Vice President Hayla Heinrich said.

Unlike a debate club, Symposium club is focused on bridging the polarity of students. Having a space to discuss topics, but more importantly listen to others, is an important skill needed to create change and become a responsible member of society.

“We pitch some ideas and we think of like, ‘oh what’s trending today what’s like going on now what are kids into what, what do they want to talk about most?’” Rodriguez said.

Finding what to discuss for each week is an important part of the club, as relevancy and significance of its topics are its focal points. Students can become the most engaged when their feelings are at the front of their minds.

Heindal hopes that with students hearing about various perspectives, it will get students more interested in politics, which she believes should be considered important to youth, since it’s affecting the world they’re going to live in.

“The club is  important because a lot of other clubs or political programs might be a little stressful to kids, and some people just aren’t ready for that sort of graded debate, and here, this is like a safe place for you to start and just get interested in politics and all that,” Heindal said. 

Past club discussions have been, the state of being back in in person school, cancel culture and the Afghanistan war. One prominent meeting was when the dress code was discussed. The discussion started with a list of issues students have about the dress code that they had hoped to express to the staff. Students discussed their personal experiences with the dress code, and observations on how the school enforces it. Other topics that arose, within discussing dress code, was sexualization of teenage girls, and school uniforms.

“It seems that students are very passionate,” Pepperel said. “I’ll have to explore in a speech with my supervisor, speaker administration to see what the symposium could do in terms of, of activism, and whatnot, because it was certainly not the not the direction I anticipated, but it almost feels like a natural way to go.”