“Remember when we weren’t ashamed of being poor? Why is there no longer dignity in being poor?” asked Paul Mahady, host of the JoAnne Boyle World Affairs Forum Afternoon Tea on Wednesday, February 18, 2009.

The JoAnne Boyle World Affairs Forum at Seton Hill University held the tea in the Parlors of the Administration Building. Faculty members and students were invited to participate in this dialogue.

“We as a culture no longer recognize nobility or a sense of dignity to poverty. When I was young and poor, we were making sacrifices for the future. I just want to know when this shift happened,” said Mahady, assistant professor of business at Seton Hill University.

Students and faculty responded to all aspects of this topic but seemed disturbed with the ideals of the American society.

“Is it about wealth or the well-being of a person that we recognize as a society?” asked Sister Victoria Marie Gribschaw, SC, chair of the division of social sciences and associate professor of family and consumer sciences at Seton Hill.

Alyssa Easter, a senior sociology major stated, “Society is more concerned with what you have rather than what you do.”

“My family was happy and hungry but proud of our poorness because we worked hard,” said Frank Klapak, Ph.D., professor in communication and education and director of the World Affairs Forum at Seton Hill University.

“Mr. Mahady's topic opened the floor to discuss a topic that many people find taboo or uncomfortable to speak about. This will give people a better understanding of one another’s situations and help them realize that they are not all that different after all,” said Gabrielle White, World Affairs Forum student president and senior communications major.

The Afternoon Tea started when students joined Klapak and Dr. Michael Cary, professor of political science and history, in the morning for coffee or tea while discussing social-political issues. This informal coffee chat evolved into a weekly event with large numbers. The group discussed converting their coffee chats into a formal event, such as a High Tea, which was a Seton Hill tradition long ago.

After much discussion, a format for the Afternoon Tea was developed. Faculty, staff, or scholars from the community select and present a topic. The event provides students with the opportunity to engage in discussions that will not be assessed.

“The goal of the Afternoon Tea is for people to leave with not only more information and a new perspective, but also with more questions and curiosity. If the attendees leave motivated, that is fantastic. Like our mission says, we want to help foster global citizenship with more information and perspective,” White explained.

“A major focus of the tea is the continued development of our intellectual curiosity and stimulation,” Klapak said. “This is an opportunity for our community of learners to come together in a relaxed atmosphere and discuss issues with an open, honest, and fair exchange of ideas. And the tea and cookies are fun too.”

The JoAnne Boyle World Affairs Forum can host 20 people at each event. They are hoping they can increase the number of Afternoon Tea events as funding becomes available.

To learn more about the Afternoon Tea events hosted by the JoAnne Boyle World Affairs Forum, contact Klapak at klapak@setonhill.edu.

The mission of the World Affairs Forum is to help develop a community of informed citizens by bringing together people of diverse and independent voice, politic, belief, idea, ability, vocation, learning, philosophy, and action. The goal of the Forum is to initiate, foster, and sustain a greater understanding of social, geopolitical, and cultural issues affecting our human condition, while encouraging individual and group action at all levels.