Students prep for 'fundamentally different viewpoints' at Thanksgiving

Colleges across the country are preparing students for encounters with relatives who might hold different opinions as they depart from their academic bubbles for the Thanksgiving holiday.

At the College of William and Mary, for instance, students were invited to attend a “Thanksgiving Toolkit” event where they would learn “how to handle politically-motivated family conflict” that could erupt over the dinner table.

Students concerned that they may have family members’ whose political views make them “feel vulnerable and distressed” were encouraged to attend so they could learn to “engage with the people [they] love, yet disagree with.”

At the event, faculty members taught students about “strategies for discussing privilege” and offered tips on “how to show solidarity with those who are made especially vulnerable by the election results,” even noting that they would be distributing educational “resources to pass on to family.”

Similarly, The New School recently hosted a “pre-Thanksgiving meditation” where students drank tea, participated in a “metta (loving-kindness) meditation,” and discovered how to “show compassion for difficult people without sacrificing [their] own feelings.”

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“We all know someone who voted for our elect [sic]. They may be in our families. We might have to see them for Thanksgiving this year,” a description for the event cautions, but reassures students that they are “the beloved college student coming back from NYC” and “have a right to the Thanksgiving of [their] choice” free from political chidings.

“Whether you want to educate family member or not, we will talk about ways to stay present,” the description explains. “When the stereotypical ‘drunk uncle’ or ‘racist aunt’ pipes up, we will have methods of opening up the conversation or politely declining it.”

Case Western Reserve University also hosted a pre-Thanksgiving debriefing for its students, informing them that “away from the university, our families and friends often talk about issues differently than what we experience in our on-campus discussions.”

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The event, called “Talking with Family About the Election,” was billed as a means of teaching students “what to say to people who have fundamentally different viewpoints on a variety of issues.”

“Can we use simple words to have deep conversations about complex issues? How do we decide whom to trust with our feelings?” an event description asks, noting that at least eight “faculty speakers” were there to help students answer these difficult questions.

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Meanwhile, the Georgetown University Medical Center published a post-election Thanksgiving “survival guide” to help students through their challenging conversations with relatives, suggesting for instance that they avoid alcohol or other substances “that reduce ability to think clearly and to control anger.”

Among other tips, the guide also advises students not to “sit close to those who might challenge your opinions,” and, if such an unfortunate scenario were to occur, recommends that students “suggest talking at a later time,” or change the subject.

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