Last night, student leaders representing various Penn State organizations met for the first time for a round table discussion to discuss conflicts in the Middle East.
Students from organizations like Penn State Hillel, Penn State College Republicans, Penn State College Democrats, Penn State Young Americans for Liberty, and Penn State Israel Alliance were in attendance.
“We thought it would be a great idea to get together, network and engage one another, something that will help us all in the future,” organizer for the event Melissa Sacks (sophomore-international politics) said.
The round table idea was inspired by student Jonathan Reich and a few other students who wanted to start a conversation among student leaders, not only also interested in the Middle East, but to also remind the leaders that it is their job to educate their peers about what is going on in the world around them.
Reich said that students need to form opinions on their own instead of allowing the media to decide for them.
“I studied in Israel for half a semester and I find Middle Eastern politics fascinating,” Reich (sophomore-international politics) said.
The round table discussion had various activities to get the students thinking about the conflicts and how the U.S. has handled them.
The student leaders discussed the assumptions Americans have about Middle Easterners and vice versa. They concluded that these assumptions stem from the media.
The students believe that it is easy to report only the negative things about a conflict or area making it hard for the world to properly access the situation.
They paired off and took turns talking about various issues including women’s rights in the Middle East, U.S. Foreign Policy and democracy. This exercise tried to show that when people listen to others they only hear what reflects their own opinions rather than a clear picture of what their peer is trying to say.
The panel plans to meet twice a semester, with their next discussion in the middle of April.
They hope to have someone from the Israeli Foreign Ministry join them as well.
“It is our job as student leaders, activists and future leaders of the world to establish relationships in settings like these and be educated about the Middle East and its politics,” Andrew Hinton (senior-international politics and history) said.