By Kerry-Anne Loughman | Opinion Columnist

Students benefit from discussion on current issues. (Courtesy of Saint Mary’s College)

Just as every American knows where they were on Sept. 11, 2001, every American knows where they were when Donald Trump was elected president. I was in class—choir rehearsal, more specifically. Our rehearsal was productive at first, but soon we became so preoccupied with checking our phones for election news that our directors decided to call rehearsal off for the night. We all sat together on the floor of the chapel with our laptops out, quietly reassuring each other that everything would be okay. Our directors reminded us that we were not alone, and that our class was a safe space for all of us. Though teaching and learning should definitely be prioritized in a classroom setting, sometimes that rule needs to be broken for the greater good. Sometimes undergraduate education must make way for real-world education and for the digestion of real-world news.

During class the morning after the election, each of my professors opened up class time to discuss our feelings about the election and allowed us to process the news together as a community. These discussions took place not only the day after the election, but for the rest of the week as well.

To this day, I am very grateful to my professors at Saint Mary’s for recognizing how much of an impact this piece of news would have upon the student body. They gave us time to let it sink in rather than jumping straight into the day’s lessons and pretending nothing particularly monumental had happened.

The news didn’t feel real to me until I began discussing it with my peers and professors, and I’m so glad to have been able to share my feelings out loud. Furthermore, I was happy that I got to listen to the experiences, feelings, and opinions of the people around me. I feel as though this is an indication of the strength of the Saint Mary’s community. In the face of fear and the unknown, we are able to come together as a community and listen to each other.

Because of this experience, I believe that discussing news in the classroom is beneficial and should be encouraged. Our Saint Mary’s education shouldn’t stop at our degrees. We need to be educated as citizens of the world, and this can easily be done by listening to the voices of the people in class with us. It’s likely that out of 20 people in one classroom, there are going to be some differing viewpoints and unique experiences that can only be heard in that setting. I found sharing my perspectives also helped me feel less alone. While it’s true that a classroom provides many different voices, it also provides us an opportunity to be comforted by the presence of others who share similar feelings.

The United States will continue to be rocked with news stories that range from undeniably joyous to downright horrifying. By discussing these news stories with each other in the classroom and sharing in each other’s joy, grief, and anger, our community will continue to grow stronger. This can only be done if our professors at Saint Mary’s continue to give us time and space to discuss these kinds of issues.

In the future, I hope to see more and more professors recognize that we deserve a well-rounded education that exceeds the limits of academics and expands to acknowledge the world around us.

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