Forum on Russia/Ukraine Conflict Sorts Facts from Fiction for Students

This week, Russian Teacher Josh Walker offered several forums for students and faculty to come together and process the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine. The first event was held in the library during advisory meetings and the response was so strong that Mr. Walker held another forum during advisory on Thursday in the theater and also during assembly block on Friday. Walker expected 15-20 students to attend the first meeting and 70-80 showed up. The theater was also full on Thursday.

When Russia invaded the Ukraine, Walker noticed the situation was on students’ minds. “Kids stopped by Room 382 to talk about it and I heard kids talking about it in the hallway,” he said. “I think community members were looking for reassurance of what this was and what this wasn't and to try to have some understanding of what’s going on.”

Walker has friends and family living in Russia, and from his education has a deep understanding of the historic relationship between Russia and the Ukraine. He used the forums to share this knowledge and to answer questions.

“I came to Dr. Walker’s talk today because listening to someone who could present such a complex and rich topic in such an understandable form is incredibly helpful,” Daniel Cudkowicz ’22 said after attending Friday’s assembly block. “I was able to learn more from these talks than from the news, and I was able to have my personal questions on the issues answered in a meaningful manner.”

Walker noted that a lot of students get their information from social media and that the students are also savvy enough to question the accuracy of what they are seeing. He wanted to step in and help them sort through fact and propaganda. “We talked about the different narratives of the war. There are two very different narratives of history and two very different narratives of what Ukraine is,” he said.

Faculty also benefited from the events, asking questions about the type of government in Russia and what Russian civilians think about what their government is doing. Walker relayed that he has learned from friends that in Russia people are prohibited from using the word “war” in reference to the situation.

Walker plans to keep making himself available, formally or informally, as needed for the community to process the events as the war evolves. (A Zoom webinar for parents took place on the evening of Sunday, March 6. You can view the webinar here.) He also cites The New York Times and The BBC as sources for accurate and unbiased reporting.