Student organization WeListen was featured in a WDIV ClickOnDetroit story titled "Meet the students leading tough dialogue at the University of Michigan," by Meredith Bruckner.
In the article, recent Ford School graduate Gabriel Lerner (BA '18) and Engineering graduate Sonia Thosar discuss the humble beginnings, current successes, and future goals of WeListen. In their final year of college, Lerner and Thosar founded WeListen, “a campus-based organization that facilitates political dialogue through small group discussions,” aiming to “draw students who represent both extremes of the political spectrum to engage over hot topic political issues like gun control, abortion and free speech.”
As the article explains, WeListen came to be following the 2016 election when Lerner and Thosar noticed “a deep political divide on campus.” Also inspired by their personal backgrounds, Thosar found “the political discourse lacking” as an engineering major, and Lerner noticed disconnect across the country when reading letters in the Correspondents’ office during his White House summer internship. Driven to bridge this divide, Thosar explains the motivation to empower “those people to join the political conversation.”
WeListen held their first session in September here in the Ford School. Lerner explains, “The idea was there are lots of ways to get people together, but in our minds the best way is small group conversations.” He noted, "You can come to this as the most extreme on either side and leave just as extreme, we’re not trying to convince you of, 'Your side is right, your side is wrong,' and we’re also not trying to have a debate."
With two co-presidents, an executive board of students split 50/50 down the political aisle, and a successful first year on the books, WeListen plans to keep the conversation going, even beyond Michigan. Lerner and Thosar hope to spread WeListen to other colleges and engage even more students in this type of dialogue.