A student-led initiative at the International School of Basel faced resistance and overcame scepticism to establish an impactful committee dedicated to tackling discrimination.
'We felt strongly that students were not being taught enough about different marginalized groups and that there were limited consequences to prejudice and discrimination.'
Since the summer of 2021, the SAID (Student Advocacy of Inclusivity and Diversity) Committee has grown to represent student advocacy, aiming to bring a voice to the voiceless by educating their community about issues concerning discrimination.
The group advocates diversity and inclusion on both a local and international scale by publishing articles and podcasts while maintaining a growing social media presence—their website is packed with resources. (Note, 17 January 2023: Their SAID website is currently down; we'll keep checking)
Members of the SAID committee collaborated to respond to the questions below.
1. Why did you get involved? What was the motivation for establishing the group? How did you communicate your message?
The motivation behind starting The SAID Committee was because students identified a lack of action to promote equity and equality across the board.
We felt strongly that students were not being taught enough about different marginalized groups and that there were limited consequences to prejudice and discrimination.
SAID was intended to be a long-lasting source of information for our community to learn from.
A lot of us joined the committee based on experiences we had or had seen during our time at the school.
With the aim of reducing ignorance, we first published a video which opened the eyes of faculty and students to the racism that was occurring in our community.
The committee then designed powerful posters, wrote well-researched and edited articles, developed a social media presence on Instagram, and recorded podcasts.
We believe that hate is taught, not inherited and that hate can be unlearned.
A handful of us had come together with the common goal of making information on marginalized groups easily accessible to students to try to educate and start a conversation in our community.
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2. What challenges did you face? What opportunities emerged from the work the group did?
It was admittedly difficult to get people to pay attention to what we were doing.
We worked for many months before launching SAID, which meant people had heard about it but didn’t know what it was for.
Once we officially launched, a lot of people asked if it was necessary—another aspect we had to explain that we hadn’t expected.
Another issue was getting people to listen to the work that we produced and actively pay attention to the details that mattered.
Whilst there was definitely some resistance to our committee, we felt there was an initial burst of engagement—this was difficult to maintain because people questioned our ability to make impactful change.
However, as a result of our work, the school is making real changes that will positively affect the student body.
This includes changing the curriculum by making it more diverse and spending more time teaching students about equality and intersectionality.
Despite the challenges, we have also been presented with increasing opportunities to share our work.
We’ve been invited to speak on diversity and have been contacted by other schools to have open dialogue about the issues we advocate for.
Even this interview has given us another platform to share the work we’ve been doing for the past year.
Discover many insightful articles on their website for students and school staff to explore
3. In what ways did you feel supported?
We had several key members of staff who supported our movement.
But ultimately, having each other to confide in about the right steps or how to deal with negative feedback was a great mechanism of support in the initial stages, especially when our posters were met with hate and vandalism, for example.
4. What impact do you think you had on the community, the school, etc.? What work is still needed?
The group is relatively new, but in the past year, we have first and foremost started a conversation.
We are already seeing that with new leadership and members, this will be a continuous journey that will be built upon and won’t end with the Grade 12 group that started the initiative.
Other schools are starting to form their own groups with similar goals in mind.
As previously stated, the community is making changes that matter and that positively affect the students. Especially students in marginalized groups who we hope will have a more positive experience than those who came before them.
Moving forward, the breadth of topics will naturally expand as the group evolves, as will the way we engage our community.
It will be important to adapt our methods to how information is received to maximize reception.
5. What advice would you give to other students and schools as they address these issues?
It will take a lot of time for people to understand the intentions behind your movement—to educate, not to antagonize.
Members of the community will feel attacked, so it is very important to keep the overarching message positive and focus on equality for all.
One of our long-term goals was for SAID to expand and have different branches in other schools.
It may not take the same form as our group as different communities have different needs, but we hope we can be a form of encouragement for students who are afraid to speak up.
People shouldn’t be ashamed for wanting to discuss these issues and make a difference—speak up if you can.
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