On Friday, Oct. 20, Healing to Action (H2A) had its first all-campus meeting of the year. H2A is a young org at Vassar, whose goal, according to founding members and group leaders, is to raise awareness of social and political issues while also working to fight against the general apathetic attitude that many Vassar students seem to have.
“We’re living in times that are especially divisive, and especially disillusioned,” said one of H2A’s co-founders. “We’re walking around like zombies. H2A is about having time to pause and feel.”
They said their personal involvement in H2A beckons back to the very beginning of their first year at Vassar. “My desire to create a space like H2A comes from having unprocessed trauma and not having an outlet for it. It comes from realizing that my silence is inherently violent toward myself.”
Friday night’s H2A meeting lasted for about an hour and a half and was split up into three major parts.
A majority of Friday’s meeting was dedicated to illustrating what H2A does. Since H2A has only become a full org this year, many students on campus don’t know much about it.
Friday’s meeting was guided by two H2A members who volunteered to lead the meeting and facilitate discussion. At the beginning of the meeting, they walked attendees through H2A’s goals and philosophy. They focused on explaining the purpose of H2A, the general meeting structure and the constitution of H2A, including the responsibilities of the org’s executive offices.
H2A ultimately strives to offer a space for conversation. Meetings are designed to be open forums for healing conversation and positive action. The leaders of H2A, known as liaisons within their framework, hope that attendees define their space and conversation, bringing to meetings whatever worries or thoughts have been affecting them.
The remaining two parts of the meeting focused on healing and action, respectively.
The healing aspect of each meeting is designed to allow for constructive and cathartic discussion. Attendees are encouraged to bring up anything and everything that is on their mind.
The liaisons hope that this will lead attendees to identify their own emotional needs and work to heal through active speaking and listening within the group.
In H2A’s view, after healing comes the transition to action. The liaisons hope that this transition happens organically during each meeting, that through asking “What do we need?” attendees will naturally seek out ways to meet those needs.
H2A also stresses the necessity of planning; to transition from healing to action, attendees are encouraged to explore concrete organizational steps.
The H2A liaisons hope that, for future meetings, passionate and focused students will group up around particular issues and work outside of general meetings to plan and execute change in their given area. Future meetings will serve as opportunities for such students to connect and update other H2A members on the progress of their action.
Fostering such planning, according to a sophomore involved in the org, is one of the major difficulties in organizing H2A. “It’s tricky to balance having a conversation, and having that conversation transition into action,” they said. While leaders want attendees to define and control the space, they also would like to prompt more concrete steps in realizing change.
The student expressed some disappointment in the outcome of Friday’s meeting. While they felt that H2A was successful in reaching out to new people, particularly first-years, they hoped for greater attendance. They also would have liked to see more concrete planning and action: “While the conversation is moving in that direction, there’s a lot more to go before seeing change on campus.”
They first found out about H2A over the summer and, as they explained, “I wanted to join because of the lack of the type of community that H2A can build. I didn’t even realize I was missing that outlet.”
They reflected, however, that H2A can’t enact change alone, observing that a lot of change-oriented conversations are already happening within individual orgs and house teams. “We’re focused on making sure that individuals are engaged in the conversation. H2A has a key role to play in bringing together the leaders of orgs and house teams.” They emphasized the importance of facilitating connection between individuals dedicated to change, explaining that H2A allows leaders across campus to keep each other updated on important projects and issues. “This isn’t a conversation we can have alone,” they said.
Another student who attended an H2A meeting for the first time on Friday, is thankful that H2A has created a space for healing and action on campus. “I think a lot of people are used to seeing really good conversations happen, and then having nothing come of it,” they reflected. “I see a campus that wants to do positive things and help people and do great work, and I’m looking forward to seeing what H2A can do.”
Since Friday, some H2A members and attendees have already begun to enact change on campus. One of the major topics of Friday’s meeting was the recent VSA Senate forum with President Bradley regarding Vassar’s financial status.
“There weren’t enough seats to hold all the people that attended that meeting,” the H2A member expressed, attributing at least some of this turnout to the effectiveness of H2A. “It’s an indication that people on this campus care,” they reflected.
The student attending their first H2A meeting echoed these sentiments, saying, “I’m looking forward to working with H2A to help[ing] make Vassar the best campus it can be.”