Today for lunch, instead of sitting in our offices and checking email or, let’s be real, in my case, watching YouTube videos about social media as well as Gangnam Style, the MIT Student Activities Office is having a Silent Lunch.
Our Financial Office intern, Crystal, is deaf, and has been committed to teaching and introducing the SAO staff to many aspects of her daily life and how it differs from and requires different approaches from our daily lives. This has included teaching us some basic sign language, and now today, our Silent Lunch.
Basically, for an hour over lunch today, our staff will remain silent and will only be able to communicate via written messages (since we don’t know enough of sign language, which you can read into as a deficiency in our education system around commitment to learning multiple languages… or not), which is challenging, because I feel like we do have some closet E’s on staff (our staff I think is actually half E/I, which is interesting for a StuAct office).
Even I’m nervous about this, as a strong introvert, and I think it is mainly due to not wanting to “break the rule” by forgetting and saying something out loud. That embarrassment about not being able to commit to something for a short hour, when it is something colleagues have to live with every day of their lives. We shouldn’t be thinking of ways to shorten this hour today by claiming a meeting, but should really commit to understanding the experiences of those we work with, helping us to better learn about each other personally, which I believe only helps us learn from each other professionally.
I’m looking forward to this experience today, and hopefully, it will give me a new appreciation and insight for the privilege I have as an ably-bodied person. I also hope I can learn more about what structures are in place that are currently limiting disabled colleagues and students at MIT from fully enjoying their experience that I might have.