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Kevin Chabriel: Okay, all right um so it's Wednesday, April 28, 2021. I'm Kevin Chabriel, and I'm graduating class of 2024. I’ll be conducting an interview part of the Documenting Student Life Alumni Oral History project, and we have Nada here to explain what her perspective on it is so you want to introduce yourself, we would appreciate it.
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Nada Aly: Yeah, of course, so I’m Nada Aly. I’m part of the class of 2024, and I’m excited to be here.
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Kevin Chabriel: Okay that's good, that's good. Okay so we're going to start off by just asking a couple questions. Is it okay, if I asked you to what extent, did you participate in the strike?
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Nada Aly: Yeah, of course.
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Kevin Chabriel: Like what you did during the strike?
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Nada Aly: So, for me during the strike I was there for the first sit-in, at which point, it was announced that there was going to be a strike. Um, so I'd say I was pretty much there from the beginning. I was at the first sit-in and every other sit-in and after that. Unfortunately, I did not attend as many teach-ins as I had wanted to attend because, like other like variables. And so I had to like go over like the topics of the teach-ins in my own time. I wasn't necessary, I was not involved in the organization for the strike whatsoever. I knew people that were like involved in the organization directly. And so, I would have conversations with them on, you know how I can be of support and. In a way, I think the main form of support, or the main form of participation was talking to students that were anti-strike and kind of like discussing their position with them. And I've done it with about I think like three, four different students that were like not … like they had different reasons for not supporting the strike, but I had these discussions with them, because I felt like if I was not…
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Kevin Chabriel: Actually, I’m going to ask you about that. I want to just keep… You gave me everything, but I want to make sure that when I ask you a question you get to focus and zero in on like that specific question but you're getting to what I need to ask you. I don't want to cut you off, but I want to make sure that you are completely in a space where you can speak about that specific topic. But sorry I interrupted. Prior to the strike, have you ever participated in like protest or civic engagement of any sort? And, if so, what made you change like to actually do some civic engagement, or like what was different about this one? How does this compare?
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Nada Aly: So, I'd say I was in a bit of a unique position. When I was a kid I was in Egypt and in 2011 there was a coup pretty much. Well in 2011 there was a series of protests against the President. democratically elected president that we had. And so, from a young age, I was pretty much like pushed into the forefront of being politically involved. I was still a kid so there wasn't like much understanding of the nuance of the situation. But, I was like actively having discussions with members of the family, and so it has always been like protests and like activism has always been a part of like my identity and just how I've lived my life. I'd say the first time I directly did something my junior year of high school a few teachers were let go or transfer to other schools because of funding reasons, and there was … it was pretty much implied that there was some like … I'd say a bit of nepotism in how the teachers were replaced. And so, there was a lot of like outrage because the students just felt like it was very unfair. And so, I had participated in organizing a kind of supportive event where, a kind of event or some sort of like protest where we all came to school with dressed in all black and we refuse to participate in classes, and we were going to do a walk out. But we didn't really get to the walk out the principal called us upstairs and like kind of like…
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Kevin Chabriel: Yeah that's something that happened to me in my high school. We were going to have this walk out and they sent an email and said, “If you walk out, you’ll get in trouble”. And I was like “That's a way to silence our voices! That makes sense.” So, did this strike compare to some of the other civil engagement you've done before?
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Nada Aly: I'd say this strike probably addressed areas that I was not as educated in as I had hoped to be. And it gave me - it put me in a position of active learning about topics that I had not had the chance to actively work on educating myself in. And so it was both - like it like pulled out, like the spirit of me that was like you know angry on the behalf of these people, like wanting justice. And at the same time, learning the specific realities of supporting them. Because it was just not something that I was used to. And so, like it pretty much opened up a new way of activism, for me, and like a new way of approaching activism.
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Kevin Chabriel: Okay well now I’m going to get into more of the specific question for the strike. We want to make sure that, like if these interviews are going to ever be used to show that
everyone's backgrounds are expressed. Like so I’m going to ask you some general backgrounds like questions like: Where are you from? You said you're from Egypt, but anything, specifically to I say about that?
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Nada Aly: Well yeah originally I'm from Egypt and I've also lived in Paterson, New Jersey. And I lived in Saudi Arabia, for a bit. So, like childhood, like pretty much like my entire life, I just didn't have one spot that I was rooted in. And I guess the importance of like that fact to my background is that I never felt particularly rooted in one community or one group of people.
Kevin Chabriel: Okay that's cool. Okay, do you think you found out here at Haverford though?
Nada Aly: I think… not to the extent of how it was when I was younger. For Haverford it's more so individual diversity.
Kevin Chabriel: Okay.
Nada Aly: And that individual diversity brings like different aspects to a community versus when I was younger, it was separate groups of people from particular countries. And all of these groups of people would come together to create a new version of a community. so it's less like one big community divided into sub-communities and more so, students, bringing in to create a new thing.
Kevin Chabriel: That’s a cool way of seeing it. What’s your class year?
Nada Aly: Class of 2024. So, I’m a freshman at the moment.
Kevin Chabriel: I know you're a freshman. So, what's your potential major or if you have a set idea right now with your potential major or in any concentration or minor that you want to think of exploring?
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Nada Aly: So, I’ve been pretty set on a neuroscience major with minor in anthropology.
Kevin Chabriel: That's cool, that's cool. I'm considering like linguistic anthropology, so I see that.
Kevin Chabriel: Do you identify as a student of color on campus?
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Nada Aly: Yes
Kevin Chabriel: Okay, okay. Are you first gen or are you a legacy student?
Nada Aly: My parents went to college outside of the US, so I technically counts as a first gen student, and I am a first gen student because I pretty much had to navigate the process all on my own. So yeah, first gen.
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Kevin Chabriel: That’s how I feel too. My mom went to college in Puerto Rico, but that knowledge doesn’t transfer to the American system. So, I call myself a first gen student. Would you identify as a low income to an upper-class student?
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Nada Aly: Oh no, low income for sure.
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Kevin Chabriel: Okay, are you on campus or remote?
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Nada Aly: On campus.
Kevin Chabriel: So, what made you believe in the strike?
Nada Aly: Honestly, right off the bat I was down for the strike because it was reflective of the personal experiences that I was going through at Haverford that I wasn't able to put into words. and they were all issues that I knew existed on a larger scale in American society. And so it made absolute sense to me that these issues would be represented on like Haverford, at the scale of Haverford. And that we're pointing out these issues, and we want to address them on a smaller scale, because to make change on a bigger scale, we need to address in a smaller one. And so, I mean, from the moment that I heard what the strikes reasons were, I was completely down for it because it was already things that I wanted to actively change on a larger scale. And it gave, like the strike, gave me the opportunity to do that in my own community. And so, that was actual tangible change. So, it made me very hopeful.
Kevin Chabriel: That's actually kind nice. What was your response, like what was your initial response to Wendy’s and Joyce Bylander’s email when you first received it? And if you need. if you need time I can, I can tell you how my perspective on it, too, so we can make a conversation about it too.
Nada Aly: Sure. Honestly, I had only first read it after people started talking about it. I hadn't checked my email that day until much later, and I heard my friends, they were. my friends were texting about it. And I was like, “Oh what email are they're referring to?” And so kind of like going into it I already had their interpretations influence what I was going to feel or what I was going to like see when I read the email. But pretty much, even if they hadn't told me, I would have had the reaction of outrage at the… the, the main thing that bothered me, the one thing that really to that outrage was the professional way in which the subject was it was approached. And it really felt incredibly dismissive of the emotions and experiences of students on campus and just people in the community. And even if I like, how do I phrase this. No matter which way you look at it, the only reasonable reaction to that email if you had empathy for other people on campus and for their experiences and like understood the social climate at the time and political climate, the only reaction that you could have is outrage. It just felt dismissive, it felt demeaning it just very, I don't know, hit a sore spot.
Kevin Chabriel: Some people say it was a tone deaf.
Nada Aly: It was, yeah, I think… honestly, I think they're they picked the speed at which they wanted to send out the email over the effort needed to be put in the email which… I think it was not a good trade off to make at all.
Kevin Chabriel: Yeah, is there something specific to Haverford that made this strike possible?
Nada Aly: Honestly, I think I'd give 95% to the students and their spirit and like 5% like kind of like oh well, not just the students, like the the faculty at Haverford as well. And 5% distributed amongst like admin and their willingness to actually take a step back and listen which for like an administration that are predominantly white institution like it is a surprising thing to do. Institutes usually shut down their students in these areas. And so, maybe the Haverford admin did not have the best response right off the bat, but in comparison to other institutes we unfortunately like have to be like, “This is like incredible for them.” But like honestly, realistically, 95% due to the faculty and how willing and ready, they were to support the students right off the bat. And immediately getting involved helping out in like phrasing the strike statements, and how just quick and efficient the students were while also keeping people's emotions and mental state in consideration. Like they gave out quick statements, while also you know not trading it for like emotional support and emotional validation, which really, really contributed to this strike success.
Kevin Chabriel: What was it like how going to strike during the COVID pandemic? For the COVID-19 pandemic?
Nada Aly: For me, I think I had a completely opposite response to other people. I think it costs a lot of panic around me and everything, but I guess because of just my background of like living during civil upheaval in Egypt, it just felt like a calming experience because even though it was hectic and even though it was scary for people and a lot of you will just very incredibly nervous about it the issues were being addressed. They weren't like overlooked, and they weren't like belittled. Like I'd much rather stop everything in its tracks and address the issues that are happening so that they can't be ignored, and they can't be avoided. Because these are pressing issues, and it felt like they were finally given the attention that they needed. It was because the entire time before the strike I was feeling exactly what other students, like BIPOC students were feeling on campus, but no one was talking about it. And no matter how much I tried to bring up the conversation to non-BIPOC students to like students from like upper…like upper class students they wouldn't get it. They wouldn't get the urgency of it. They wouldn't get how it had an impact on my day-to-day life. It would just … to them, because there was no immediate pressing need to address these issues there were this concept that you could just address on much further into the future. They didn't have to worry about it, right now. And so, the fact that the strike literally stopped everything that was going on on-campus it felt validating. And even throughout that chaos, I found the peace of like being able to address things when they're dire, when they're like in dire need of being addressed.
Kevin Chabriel: What do you think are some of the positives of having to strike during the pandemic?
Nada Aly: I think… This is a bit of a personal kind of thought to it. But I think because of how the pandemic really limited the way in which we were socializing with others, and I've noticed that a lot of people have said that during like the isolation period they've had a lot of like self-introspection and reflection on their values and morals, people were much more rooted in their new-found discoveries from their self-reflection and from getting back in touch with their morals. And so, I felt like every spirit was fiercer during the pandemic. Maybe it's because I had moments, where I had like gone over my morals and my beliefs, and so it felt like my spirit, in particular, like towards activism and such, it felt rejuvenated, and I felt like I had my eyes on a more set goal. I also guess, I think a combination of like that, like that self-introspection and combination with how much newfound time we had now that like we weren't being worked to the bone by having to go out here, and here and there. A lot of things were at home, and so that gave us a little bit more time. And I think like why also what like. not denying the fact that the pandemic has drained people emotionally and physically and mentally, in other areas it gave people enough time to get in touch with their rage and the roots of the rage. And so, people were much more focused because of that period of time that we got during the pandemic. And I think if we hadn't I mean, in any other case, but not necessarily saying that like, “Oh. was a good thing that the pandemic happened because we got to think for a minute.” But, if there was any other case where we were like literally forced to stop our lives and rethink things this is one of those cases that like allowed us to do that. And so, I think in a way, there was a positive aspect to the pandemic happening and how it like supported the strike.
Kevin Chabriel: Yeah. You kind of also answered the next question: the negative aspects of like the pandemic, which is the inability to communicate, to collaborate, to just communicate with each other and just like talk about what's happening. So, I thought you kind of touched on that too. Do you believe the strike was successful?
Nada: For the meantime, yes. And here's why I think it's only for the meantime. My personal philosophy is that systemic change cannot happen through one ground shaking event. People have to be consistently reminded of these issues And I don't think that one singular strike is going to change the way in which the Haverford institution is built. And honestly I mean not just because people will eventually like forget about the specifics of the strike and so they'll just go back into their bubble of comfort, but also like seeing now with like the Honor Code like amendments and stuff and seeing how people still carry sentiments that are very closely tied to why the strike happened so closely to the strike happening just tells me that you can't change people's minds through one event the forces our lives to stop. We are going to have to consistently force people's lives to stop and force them to stop what they're doing and face reality until it becomes ingrained in them the way it was ingrained in us. Because our experiences have radicalized us and so it's second nature, like to realize that changes doesn't come easily from these things. But a lot of other students on the Haverford campus don't have that experience that radicalize them. And so, these concepts that we're trying to address all the time, and these issues most likely come to them with their understanding of it comes from theory. And theory is important to read, but if you just have theory and no experience and you don't listen to people's experiences and you don't literally experience your life being stopped the way that our lives, have had to be constantly stopped to be … to address these issues, then there's no way that it's going to stick with you. So that's why for the meantime the strike is working, but long-term change? Multiple things are going to have to happen, and I most likely fully predict that another strike might happen.
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Kevin Chabriel: That was actually the next question too. Do you think the… next question uh.. Do you think there is going to be another strike? And I also do think there is going to be another strike too. I feel like the strike was not enough. So I do see where your perspective is. How do you think social media impacted to the logistics of the strike?
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Nada Aly: I think honestly, in context of like COVID and the fact that we had students that were remote, a lot of the infographics are provided by BSL and provided by the strike collective really helped get the nuance of the strike across to remote students. And because of how reliance we are or how reliant very, very reliant on social media and spreading information through social media last semester, because we didn't really know each other, much so we couldn't gather and talk about these things. So seeing people repeatedly the post the same things and like having it circulate wider and wider in the Haverford circle, I think that's what forced people to realize that “You can't escape this.” Like social media was usually like an escape. But now that all we had was social media for interaction, it forced people to finally confront that there's no way away from this, no way out of this. So, in one way, it kind of brought remote students in on what the conversation that was happening because they very easily could feel excluded in these situations. And in another way, the students that are on campus and the students that just like are used to like being at Haverford realize that there's no way that you can escape what is going on with the strike because the entire Haverford bubble was talking about this. There was no way someone's feed didn't have any of this… any of these infographics circling but there's no way you can avoid it. And so, like I think it really did help like spreading information and driving that this point is an important event that needs to be focused on.
Kevin Chabriel: How do you think this relates to the fact that the strike occurred… How you do you think this relates because the strike occurred during the middle of a pandemic? Is there a relationship between the fact that social media helped the strike occur in a better way because social media is used as a message board?
Nada Aly: I think? I mean, besides like…
Kevin Chabriel: Or, if you want me to rephrase the question I can too.
Nada Aly: Like um do you mean like… um. I don't know. Can you rephrase? Sorry.
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Kevin Chabriel: Yeah. As in do you think there is a connection between like the fact that social media was very beneficial for the strike and due to the fact happening during a pandemic like the strike was happening during a pandemic? Like is there a relationship between the fact it was beneficial because there was a pandemic going on?
Nada Aly: Oh yeah for sure. Yeah there's for sure a connection, thank you for rephrasing that. Because the pandemic pretty much isolated us as individuals, the only way that we could really interact with the others are feel like the intellectual connections that in-person conversations could have we have resorted to social media for these connections, you know these human connections that we need. And I think the influx of people using social media far more frequently and way more really generated a lot of traction for the strike. Because I feel like if the strike were to occur during an normal in-person semester people could very easily avoid social media and just go and hang out in circles that avoid talking about the strike. And so in a way, they can form a bubble within a bubble where they felt like they didn't have to step out of their comfort zone. But social media became like everything for a lot of people during the pandemic. And I think, especially for Haverford students because of like the whole Haverford bubble concept and wanting to be connected to your classmates and upperclassmen and everything. Social media was the only way you could do that, you couldn’t see people in person like that. And so just the fact that everyone resorted to social media, and social media was pretty much flooded over and over again with the demands of the strike the reasons behind the strike, students speaking up like personally in support of the strike, arguments for the strike, and even like things from the other side. It was all there in front of you all the time. It really like gave the strike a lot of the traction that it needed. And I really do think, especially in terms of mutual aid. That really, I think it really helped that people were constantly posting about it on social media, because a lot of people I think forget about mutual aid. Or like they'll donate once and then forget like how to reach out to them like the Venmo or PayPal. And so, seeing it constantly posted and like having that you know social media account being promoted everywhere really helped that aspect.
Kevin Chabriel: How did you interact with slash feel about students who oppose the strike?
Nada Aly: Okay, so during the strike. I… for me, because it was like during like straight in the middle of events still happening and stuff, so emotions were pretty high, no matter their reasoning, for not supporting the strike, I still felt the sense of like contempt towards that person. And like, what… because it always went back to the fact that a lot of the reasons were either like directly dismissive of the struggles of students on campus and the reasoning behind the strike, so it felt like the value their personal opinion and their personal experience above a collective thing that is being addressed literally by a significant portion of the Haverford campus. And if it wasn't coming from that place that it was coming from a place of choosing self-preservation and choosing their zone of comfort, staying in that zone of comfort over actual change. In both cases, it was indirectly communicating to me that while I might have mattered to them in situations that weren't tense or just day to day things when it really came down to it, and when it really came down to meeting their support, they were not going to be there for me, because they preferred their area of comfort. Their personal comfort came above the safety of their fellow students and faculty on campus. So during the strike and still now to this day, no matter how much someone tries to justify it to me, I can't help but think that these two places where being anti-strike stems from just reflect this disregard for the community or like a way of thinking in which it's like individual first, community second. For me it's the opposite. Community always comes first, and my individual thoughts and my individual beliefs, do not matter if my community is actively telling me that there's an issue. It doesn't matter if I think that based on my experience, you know, it doesn't really seem like institute is that racist. Like that doesn't matter. Because there's a collective telling me that this is a repetitive experience that they've been through. It is my job to listen. It's my job to prioritize my community over my understanding, and my beliefs. Because my view of the world… like the world doesn't center around me. And if I’m going to use my opinion like listen to my opinion above what other people are telling me is the truth, then that's just too self-centric of an approach for me to like to feel like I can trust that person. Even if they don't intend it to be that way, it's just embedded in them.
Kevin Chabriel: Did you, by any chance on read the article at Publius? And if so what’s your opinion on that article?
Nada Aly: I did. Remind me again the Publius article was the one on how…
Kevin Chabriel: Yeah, I can give you a little context. It was the article anonymously expressing their opposition to strike. And it was plastered all over on the campus explaining their reasoning and why they opposed strike.
Nada Aly: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I remember seeing the papers across campus. I did take down one or two myself. Just saying. I mean after I read it I couldn't handle the idea of it being spread around campus. But anyways, yeah initial reaction to the Publius statement: It was the most clear case that I’ve seen of someone being like I care about myself and my beliefs being upholded and my interpretation of reality being upholded, they care about that, way more than the actual reality of what's going on on campus. Because to me the entire thing read like this person's skewed sense of reality needed to be upholded and was a valuable opinion somehow, or a valuable commentary on what was going on, even though at the end of the day, this is one individual's opinion based on a sense of reality that is not like, in my opinion, not true and not reflective at all of what was going on. It really felt like a series of like hastily put together reasons, because this person didn't want their sense of reality to shatter. They didn’t want to believe that this entire time their behaviors have been harmful to the community, their thoughts have been harmful to the Community. And so instead of addressing that and addressing their personal discomfort in that area, they took that discomfort as a matter of fact and like posted it around campus. And like I think they went…a part of why they were anonymous is because, maybe a small part of them realized that this was the end of the day is skewed sense of reality and it's a personal opinion and not really a valid comments area was going on. And so, they didn't want that attached to them because, deep down, maybe they knew that it was wrong to come out with that kind of statement during a time like this. Or, or like I don't know. I won’t like dive into their reasoning, for it, but just like overall opinion on the paper was that, like I didn't see a single valid argument that was rooted objectively, in reality. All of the arguments seem to stem from this person's perception of what reality is and the reasoning was revolving around them as a person. Too self-centered for it to actually be a realistic thing. So that was my opinion on it, just like a self-centered piece that was like posted around from a place of privilege.
Kevin Chabriel: Yeah. How did you beliefs or outlooks towards the strike differ from others that supported of the strike? Were there are some things that you agreed with, and others didn’t agree with? Or there's something that you didn't agree with and others agreed with? Like you know you supported it, but were there aspects you did not support?
Nada Aly: I think honestly it wasn't a matter of not supporting some aspects of the strike. It was a matter of like I mentioned earlier, this has really taught me like new ways of approaching activism and it's brought nuance to topics that I didn't really… I wasn't really much educated on. And so, because I wasn't educated on these things and some aspects --I can't remember the specific aspects- but some of the proposals, initially I didn't understand where they're coming from. But instead of like, being, “Oh, if I don't understand where it's coming from then obviously doesn't like really matter. It doesn't really contribute much.” I took a step back, and I realized that it was coming from a place of my limited understanding. And so, here's how I viewed it: if there were aspects of the strike that I felt that I did not necessarily agree with it was because I didn't understand. Not because this was the thing that I should disagree with. Because first and foremost, I put trust in my members of the community and the people who organized the strike that they knew what they were doing, that they knew what they were saying. So, if there was something I disagreed with it was because I didn't understand where they were coming from. Not because it was something that should be disagreed with necessarily. So that's how I approached it. I took it as an opportunity for learning if I felt like there was something I disagreed with. But honestly, I was fully in support of the strike, and I mean, for me it the aspects were like how outspoken I was with certain people came off as bullying. Which, at the time I really felt bad about, and then like reflecting back on it was because I was pushing these people's perception of reality out of their comfort zone. And I wasn't like it was part of like you know the strike; you have to stop and face reality. And me telling people to face reality is not a form of bullying. And so, I guess I was very deeply committed in spreading understanding of the concepts of the strike that other people didn't understand. Because, for me it was coming from a place of a lack of education or a limited view. And so, I had the benefit of the doubt. and I was like, “Maybe these other people, you know also come from a place of limited understanding and it's my job to give them that understanding.” So that's why I didn't necessarily disagree with anything in the strike. And I pretty much fully agreed with the approaches that we're taking. I even felt like the approaches were very mature. And during a time where people were very like getting directly attacked for their reality and just being really incredibly mistreated by anti-strikers, they took the high road. And I mean, I would have gotten angry. In my personal opinion, I would have gotten angry and said, “How about you stop centering your view on yourself, and start waking up, start seeing things how they are.” But, honestly, the way that they really approached it, I really admire the way that strike organizers approach that kind of like pushback. It even like made me more supportive of the strike.
Kevin Chabriel: I just realized that the transcribing portion thing wasn't going on. It said that the internet was out. I was like “Oh my God.” So, I was trying to go back into it. Were you surprised by the people that either supported the strike or opposed the strike?
Nada Aly: I was surprised by people who opposed the strike. One or two people that opposed the strike that I knew personally. I think it was a part of me hoped for a better from them, but they fell short of that. And it was just… it really did like. It came as a surprise because I wanted to believe that they weren't like that, but then it was kind of proven to me like you know my… I think, for me, it was because I see people's beliefs on certain topics that are not necessarily political as like signals, or like flags as to what their actual political views and approaches are. So not necessary … I haven't necessarily discuss politics with them or civil activism. But because of their approaches on other things, I think I had a pretty good inkling on who would be pro-strike who would be anti-strike. And it was pretty much almost proven entirely right, besides those one or two people that I expected better from.
Kevin Chabriel: So how did your relationship with your friends like people around you change at all during the strike?
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Nada Aly: I think for me in regards to this, I think this was just like me specific thing. But in regards to my White male friends, it was like a testing period. Because, first and foremost, what is important to me, as you know, as a person of color and as a person that belongs to several marginalized groups, I needed to know that the people were an active support of me fighting for my struggles and other people fighting for my struggles. And I care about that way more than like one on one you know human dynamics or things like that. I couldn't find myself being friends with an individual that wasn't going to support that greater cause. And so when it came to a moment where you had to pick a side, I took a step back and I looked at my friends and I was like this is really going to change our relationship, if they were anti-strike, I would have to either…If I feel like their anti-strike coming from a place that can be mended or talked through, then maybe I would put in the effort to try to educate them in that. But if the place of being anti-strike that they came from inherently reflected that they did not care about me and about other people from marginalized communities and our struggles and that they came first like they were they would rather stay in their zone of comfort, then I was just going to have to cut these people out of my life, no matter how well we got along. I don't think it got to that point with anyone in my life or anyone on campus that I’d met. My friends were pretty supportive of the strike, especially my white male friends. And I looked at the varying degrees in which they were supportive. In that is it coming from an actual personal you know process of radicalization where they're actually believing these things and feeling that outrage? Or is it like outward support, but not really internalizing the aspects? And, in that area I guess it's like a more nuanced area of like support. And so, it was more of a personal indication to me, are these people worth keeping in my life or not. The more outraged they were, of course, the better I felt because that was reflective of the fact that them as people are trustworthy and reliable. With the friends that I had that were anti-strike, I lost a big sense a big chunk of trust and intimacy like emotional intimacy with them. Because, tome, I knew that they could never… well the way that it felt at the moment, and the way that their actions made me feel made me feel that they could never understand the aspects of my identity that they needed to understand in order to be close friends with me. And so, I knew I couldn't bring them in closer in my life for my personal safety and mental health and for the personal safety and mental health of my friends from other marginalized communities. Because I wasn't going to bring someone into my circle that was willing to overlook these things, no matter how well I got like I said, no matter how I will get along with them. I wasn't going to bring them in my circle that way. And so it just changed that connection, that I had with a few people. And I think maybe in another life if they were actually pro-strike and willing to like to listen and stuff, we could have been closer. But it was a huge defining factor and who was going to get closer to me and who was kind of like stay at a certain point.
Kevin Chabriel: How do you think the strike affect the POC Community at Haverford, or the BIPOC community?
Nada Aly: This is a bit of a an interesting… I want to phrase this properly. For the BIPOC community, I feel like in a way it proved to them once again that you can't rely on other people as much as you rely on those who have went through your personal… went through experiences similar to yours. Because there were non-BIPOC students on campus that identified as POC that pretty much abandoned ship when we needed the most. And it felt like it was another disappointment, to the BIPOC community that they were obviously prepared for it because it has happened over and over again in their lives. But it just…the harm that it caused. It just it just caused more hurt to the community, hurt that they should never have to go through from people that were supposed to support them. And so, I think it might have caused a bit of a rift in terms of who you can trust and who you can rely on. I think it narrowed some circles, a bit more. There's… I would say there's definitely… because a lot of people's intentions were put on the table and a lot of people's real beliefs which all cards were laid out. And so, it was a - I don't want to say rough lesson because they didn't deserve - the BIPOC community didn't deserve to be betrayed is a stronger word, but it's the best one that I can think of, right now. But like to have them feel that betrayal during an important moment that no one ever deserves to go through that. So, it was like another tough reminder for lack of a better word that you have to protect yourself, first and foremost, and you have to protect the most vulnerable people in your circle because other people and other marginalized communities doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to support you and just fully evident in the non-BIPOC POC students that didn’t support the strike.
Kevin Chabriel: Did you feel like your professors supported your decisions to strike?
Nada Aly: I think my personal professors did.
Kevin Chabriel: Do you think they gave you the adequate response you wanted?
Nada Aly: Yeah okay so.
Kevin Chabriel: Sorry, and the adequate resources to reenter the class after this strike?
Nada Aly: I think the response was very adequate. I think, also because the I was mostly taking Chem and anthro classes. And, like the classes, that I was taking were just like I don't know from departments, that I had an inkling that they would be supportive. And so, the response that I got was adequate for me and even, in some cases when a little more like above adequate to like be really good like responses. Like right off the bat the anthropology department, I really loved the response, the collective response and the individual response from professors. For Chem, the overall response to me wasn't as good as my personal professor’s response. Because my personal professor, I think she shared a certain experience with a certain background, with my BIPOC students. And so, she really like resonated with us and actively like put in the work, and I think other people in the chem department couldn’t resonate in that way. And so, they weren't able to give us as adequate of a response. But as for resources on how to get integrated back into the class after the strike. I won't say…I'll say that as they were formulating the plan for getting back into things, the top priority was obviously to make sure that students we're back on track with things. But I think it held on too much to an idea that somehow once the strike ended students we're just going to be able to like I don't know, maybe take a week or week and a half to kind of recuperate and then be able to jump right back into things. That was what some of the individual like plans of integration felt to me that it was, like all this is like a slight hiccup but we're going to get right back into things. And like one or two responses acknowledged that it was not going to be easy getting back into things, and they were like open to discussion on what would be the best way for each individual student to proceed so that they pass the class, and they don't feel that passing the class was prioritized over their personal experience. So, it was an even mix, a mixed bag.
Kevin Chabriel: How did you feel about the ways in which different departments expressed their oppositions to strike?
Nada Aly: I think I remember more clearly individual professors his responses. I felt like… like I don't know I felt like I couldn't really fully trust the collective response of a department, because that alleviated some of the impact that individual words would have. So, I think a lot of like professors, just like you know held their tongue back in the overall response in favor of just like supporting the general opinion, instead of expressing their personal beliefs there were professors that express their personal opinions in the group statements and outside of the group statements. Just I think, for me, in particular, I won't name drop because I can't actually remember the proper names, and I don't want to like I just I just won't necessarily name drop. But I do have a bit of a hesitancy to trust the political science department. I'll say it that way. That particular department, their responses individual responses that I have seen - I didn't have any political science classes - so I would see that individual responses from my classmates who were in those classes. Just very reflective of very old held beliefs, that they were that they were willing like they were going to stick to and we're not willing to listen to the Haverford community. And so, it made me feel like as a student unheard. And it kind of felt like it went against Haverford’s model of learning from professors and having professors learn from you. It felt like a traditional setup where it was like the Professor knows best and their views because they come from experience, are best. And so, they were not willing to this into the student body. And I think also some individual responses from the Economics department, but that one I’m not very sure of. I remember the political science department really stuck with me not in a good way.
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Kevin Chabriel: I apologize for that, you know COVID interviews. I forgot to put do not disturb. How did your how did your parents feel about the strike?
Nada Aly: I didn’t my parents, I was participating in the strike right away. Because, I mean, based on like the political history of my family, we were never ones to shy away from going against the status quo and risking certain aspects to like to achieve like a like a higher more collective goal for a Community. But I think my parents were a little bit more reserved on how much they were willing to put on the stake. And so, when I told them that I had stopped going to classes, pretty much fully dedicated myself to like educating myself on the topics of the strike and emotionally supporting my friends, especially my friends that were very, very directly involved in the strike., like that was my entire focus, I knew they weren't going to approve because they always tell me to put my education first. But to me, and like I did tell them that I participated in the strike, and they reacted and they're like, “You know what if that's what you believe you need to do, then do it.” But then they were like, “You should focus on your studies as well you know you shouldn’t fall back behind. You have to take care of yourself.” Things like that. Just like typical concerned parent kind of thought. And I was a little bit disappointed and the response to what I was saying because I had hoped they would be more focused on what I was trying to address by being in support of the strike rather than my personal well-being because for me it’s always community before individual self. That was how it was for me. And so, it didn't matter how I was going to catch up to my work. That was for me to handle. But priority, I was willing, I was going to stop all that I was doing, and I was going to support the strike the best way I could. And it felt to them with a bit too much of a response, like a bit too extreme of response. But to me, it felt reflective of the work that other members of my family have done in activism. Like I really do look up to my grandpa and what he did to fight for his… to fight for the rights of others. Because doing so in Egypt, speaking out against the government meant prison and prison meant torture and frequently like was in prison, based on political beliefs and based on books that he would write. And so, to me this is on a way lesser scale than what he did. He was actively risking his personal freedom to support his Community the least I could do, and the least my… like the very least that my parents could expect of me is to put my everything into supporting the strike. So, their responsible was like, so this is like a very long way of saying their individual response didn’t feel best to me. But as a collective goal of my family and a collective lesson that was passed on in generations, this felt like the very least I could do.
Kevin Chabriel: How did the friends and people around your affect your involvement and support for the strike?
Nada Aly: I think, because a lot of my friends were White men from like privileged positions, I focused more on teaching them or trying to teach them the nuance of the strike because I felt like from being in a position where I trusted that that these people would give me the time and listen to my voice that I should use that to get the message across, because sometimes it falls short. And sometimes you need to hear it from someone that's close to you. And so, my involvement in the strike was more so focused on changing my inner circle and making sure that my inner circle fully understood what was going on and that personal biases or beliefs weren't going to block them from actually supporting the strike which took a portion of my time so that I couldn't participate on a larger scale in the strike. And honestly, I don't - I think the best way that I could contribute at that moment was to address my inner circles. Because I was in a position where my inner circles were typically people that you know…I mean they try, but sometimes they don't get that experience from what goes on around them. Maybe they just didn't like… they lived in like predominantly White areas. And so, maybe I’m the first person from these multiple marginalized communities that is speaking to them about these issues and bringing a new perspective. Maybe I was the first person to do that. A lot of weight comes with being that first person in someone's life. But I felt like the best way that I could contribute was to bring my voice to the table in my inner circles, because you start with what's closest to you, and then you move on to like wider areas.
Kevin Chabriel: How did your daily routine change during the strike like not going to class not going to work, etc.?
Nada Aly: I think my time was almost evenly split between having conversations with friends about strike related things and… well having conversations with friends and also others that I didn't know very well, but like had expressed their opinions and I felt it was my need to address that. So, and even divide of trying to educate others and educating myself. I can only say that I was trying to educate others because there's only so much I could do, and you know you can't change people's minds completely if they're fully set on it. So, I had also dedicate a good portion of my time to educating myself. And I was like through readings. I still regret not going to teach-ins. But I made a for that by doing personal readings, and you know, advertising these personal readings to those around me. And -
Kevin Chabriel: Why--
Nada Aly: I’d say- What’s up?
Kevin Chabriel: Sorry, sorry, sorry. I thought you stopped. So sorry.
Nada: I was just gonna say like as a final thing I also tried to like I think also, like taking personal breathers so that I could keep what I was doing going.
Kevin Chabriel: Why do you think someone would it be opposed to the strike?
Nada Aly: I think a mix of privilege and an unwillingness to step out of your comfort zone, which is rooted in that privilege. Because when you're privileged the world essentially revolves around you even if it's not an active thing that like is happening. Like subconsciously, the way you form your opinions and the way you form your morals a lot of it is centered around you and your personal experiences which, I think is not the case with BIPOC students and people from multiple marginalized areas. Because they're forced from the beginning not forced like it's a like like yeah it was like it can be a lot but also really taught us how to like have empathy for others and not center ourselves as individuals in the way that we see the world. And so, put very bluntly it felt like the only way you could oppose the strike is the fact that you're so involved in your inner world and think that things revolve around you, to the point where other’s opinions and other’s experiences, if they were in contradiction to yours instead of listening without bias, you're just going to listen so that you can find a way to dismantle that argument and then enforce your own privilege and your own perspective. Because I don't think that people who center themselves in their own worlds as individuals can never have enough empathy for a community to be true activists. You have to like… and I guess this also goes from a book that I’m reading called Emergent Strategy, I really recommend it's a lot of people. But yeah, unless you center community in everything that you do and in all the actions and all the thoughts that you have, you won't have enough empathy and understanding of others and respect for others to.
listen to them when they need you most. And that's why I think that when we needed these people most they were unwilling to listen, because they don't have that belief of community first and community above all.
Kevin Chabriel: What's one thing that Haverford still needs to work on?
Nada Aly: By Haverford do you mean the administration, the student body or separately?
Kevin Chabriel: Just one thing that you like think of one thing that you think about a lot that Haverford needs to work on.
Nada Aly: I'll say this about the student body. Well, no, I think it's a sign of a bigger thing but going to a liberal arts institution does not make you immune to personal biases that are rooted in privileges because choosing to go to an institute that has a message of activism and a message of community, and a message of open communication does not mean you're automatically practicing these values in your day-to-day life. And I think what Haverford needs, especially Haverford students is to realize that they need to remove the safety blanket that is going to a liberal arts institution, because that sheds a lot of like personal accountability because they'll be like, “Well, I’m not racist because I go to a liberal arts institution. And these views can't be wrong, because I go to a college that encourages, you know. critical thinking of stuff.” And they think that somehow going to a liberal arts college means that, like all power and balances have been removed and thinking critically, is the only way moving forward and stuff, and that is reflective of a lot of privilege. And the fact is, Haverford needs to realize that being a liberal arts college does not make them immune to criticism. The students need to realize that being liberal arts students does not make them immune to criticism, and that no amount of theory reading and no amount of interesting cool classes they take is going to change the fact that a lot of them do not have experiences that radicalize them or connect them to their community. And so, they need to put in way more effort to break out of that comfort zone and to hold themselves accountable on way bigger things if they really want to be good people. And good people, I mean like you have to practice being good. Staying in your bubble of comfort when you're privileged automatically means that you're not doing your best to be a good person. So, they need to stop, and the need to seriously reflect: “Am I actually working towards being a good person? Am I going out of my comfort zone to listen to others and to actively help others? Or am I using labels like “liberal arts student” “Democrat”, “Leftist”? Am I using these labels to make me feel like I’m doing this activism and doing this work, but I really have not.” That's what - they need to stop and reflect. There's no way that like actual radical change is going to happen at Haverford before people address this. This is just bare minimum address.
Kevin Chabriel: Thank you for that. I appreciate it. That's the last question that I have. Do you have any questions that you want to ask me or is there anything you want to ask me before I stop recording? Or if you want to ask questions without me recording I can do that too.
Nada Aly: I don't think I have any questions like recording wise.
Kevin Chabriel: Okay yeah I'll pause it right now, thank you so much.
Nada Aly (Class of 2024) interviewed by Kevin Chabriel (Class of 2024)
This interview was conducted by Kevin Chabriel (Class of 2024) who interviewed Nada Aly (Class of 2024). They discussed Nada's background as a first-generation, low-income student from Egypt and how it influenced her perception of the strike. They covered Nada's disappointment with the administration and what changes she hopes to see in the future. This interview was conducted as part of the Documenting Student Life Project.
Aly, Nada (interviewee)
Chabriel, Kevin (interviewer)
Metadata created by Rhea Chandran, Class of 2023