Campus Discourse: Fostering Belonging

How do we foster a school community that engages in humane and constructive dialogue?

This project took place in New York, NY
Project Location

New York, NY

A teacher shows a class how to play basketball

Campus Discourse at Riverdale grew from a need to communicate how freedom of expression and open discourse fulfill the school’s mission of developing minds, building character, and creating community. For much of the school’s history, these principles were implicit in its practices. The Statement on Campus Discourse foregrounds the assumptions that are the foundation of Riverdale’s work, ensures that all members of the community understand and appreciate them, and provides a framework for engaging in constructive discourse that facilitates an equitable, diverse, and inclusive learning environment.

Open discourse helps us cultivate empathy and understand views different from our own.

How it Started

Riverdale began framing the question of campus discourse in the spring of 2018, inspired by the “Chicago Principles” that express the University of Chicago’s “overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate.” Riverdale presented its Statement on Campus Discourse in 2019.

Where it is Now

We are focused on developing programmatic tools, including more developmentally appropriate language for our youngest learners and expanded mechanisms for feedback to increase accountability for our older students.

What’s Next

Development is underway on open-source digital and physical resources for external school communities and practitioners looking to expand discourse in their classrooms.


The Statement on Campus Discourse was prepared by: Darius Wiel & Blair Parker; Upper School Students.

Working Group: Grace Victor, Lee Pearson, Jake Crowley-Delman, Cristian Baidal.

Additional thought partners, inspiration, and gratitude: Kelley Nicholson-Flynn, Julie Choi, Mike Sclafani, Phyllis Dugan, Tom Taylor, James Duval, Milton Sipp, JT Teirney, Shaqwaya Campbell, Dominic Randolph.

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