New freeform podcast ‘Beyond Glass Walls’ explores social, political issues

Sophomores Samuel Joseph and Hendricks Delva, creators of "Beyond Glass Walls", a new podcast on social and political issues, pose for a picture Feb. 10. Asha Iyer / The Tufts Daily

This past week, Tufts sophomores Samuel Joseph and Hendricks Delva started a new podcast titled “Beyond Glass Walls.” The podcast is meant to touch on a wide range of political and social issues affecting students on campus through a series of natural, freeform conversations, according to Joseph and Delva. Each week, they invite fellow students to add their voices to the conversation. The first episode is available now on SoundCloud.

The podcast has been in the works since last year but has materialized only recently, according to Joseph.

“This is something we both have been contemplating since early first semester, and we didn’t get the resources and organization together until about last semester,” Joseph said.

Joseph said they recorded their first episode over winter break and started editing as soon as they returned to Tufts.

Inspired by conversations with their peers, Joseph and Delva said they want to foster open dialogue around controversial subjects such as race.

“Our first inspiration was last year,” Delva said. “It was one of those late nights where you stay up, having a really nice conversation with your friends. I think we might have been talking about race and social dynamics overall.”

Before formally recording, editing and publishing their first episode, “White People are Here,” on SoundCloud, Joseph and Delva spontaneously recorded conversations with their peers, they explained.

“It actually started out as us … recording conversations that we were just having with people,” said Joseph. “Now we’re starting to get into a little more organized routine.”

The name for their podcast, “Beyond Glass Walls,” was born from an anecdote that arose in one of these impromptu conversations, according to Delva.

“[Researchers] put a glass wall in [a] goldfish’s tank so that the fish could not go to the other side of the tank, and as the goldfish tried to go to the other side of the tank it eventually learned,” Delva explained. “After the fish stopped trying, they removed the wall that was there and it was free to roam wherever it wanted. But the goldfish was conditioned to believe that it couldn’t make it to the other side no matter what it tried to do so it just didn’t. I feel like that kind of just spoke to us in a larger sense.”

The name “Beyond Glass Walls” served as a jumping-off point for the focus of the podcast, according to Joseph, who related the wall in the goldfish’s tank to the invisible barriers between people.

“The wall is the barrier that divides us, a transparent wall,” Joseph said. “We want to go beyond the wall, move those transparent barriers.”

The first episode focuses on how race impacts social interactions and the social climate at Tufts, according to Delva. The episode also touches on privilege, gender and broader social justice issues, according to podcast guest Phyllis Njoroge, a junior. The conversation dives into sensitive material at times as Joseph, Delva and Njoroge contemplate differing opinions on race relations.

Ultimately, the podcast is meant to inspire deep thinking and personal reflection among both participants and listeners by openly exploring controversial viewpoints, according to Joseph and Delva.

Njoroge emphasized the subjectivity of the opinions she expresses in the episode and of opinions in general.

“I was shocked when they published the podcast all over social media and I was really concerned about how people would perceive me after listening,” Njoroge told the Daily in an email. “So I decided to re-listen to it myself and I decided that I can’t be afraid of being wrong … I am never convinced that anything that I hold in my mind or release into the world is right. I embrace being wrong because I know our reality is shaped by our experiences.”

The second episode, which has already been recorded but not yet uploaded, will focus on the relationship between students and their parents, and parents’ expectations of their children, according to Joseph.

“It’s about the trauma that comes in the parent-to-child relationship, not only trauma kids get from their parents but also the trauma that parents get from kids, and how it just perpetuates and adds to the cycle,” Delva said. 

Sophomore Paige Shephard said she was invited to be a guest on the episode. She shared her thoughts on the modern day relationship between parents and children.

“Our discussion was on all things parents: how we differ from that generation, how technology affects us, if everyone has some type of ‘family trauma,’ coming of age, discussing the concept of creating life and analyzing how our families raised us,” Shephard said.

The conversations in each episode are intimate, occurring between only four or five people in an attempt to make every guest feel comfortable expressing their personal opinions and experiences, according to Joseph.

“We’re trying to make dialogue in a true non-confrontational way, in a way that people don’t feel the need to be defensive over their point of view, that’s kind of what makes our podcast stand out,” Joseph said. “At the core of our podcast is civic dialogue, civic engagement with each other and exploring our opinions.”

Joseph and Delva said they hope to share their own personal experiences and the experiences of others with a wider audience, as well as bring awareness and understanding to potentially sensitive issues.

“Another part of the reason why [we’re] doing it … is so that we can all have these types of conversations that help us as people, just understanding the viewpoints of someone that we don’t usually encounter,” Delva said. “One of the things that is going to really help us overall is talking to each other and hearing more about each other’s experiences, because then there’s more understanding that can take place and so much more learning and growth.”

While it covers heavy material, the first episode is infused with laughter. Going forward, the podcast will continue to take a lighter stance on hard issues, according to Delva.

“We’re also both pretty comical guys,” Joseph said. “A big part of our podcast is keeping it lighthearted, comical. We’re talking about serious topics but at the end of the day I feel like having a lighthearted aspect really adds a lot.”

Joseph and Delva hope their podcast will help stimulate deep, intellectual conversation on Tufts’ campus going forward, introducing listeners to conversations to which they might not normally be exposed, according to Delva.

“Especially for our first two podcasts, where it’s entirely people of color [speaking], there was one white person [speaking] … those are spaces not everyone would be able to go into openly,” Joseph said. “That’s a big goal of our podcast too — to expose people to diversity on campus, different types of people.”

Joseph and Delva said they also thought about issues of censorship before publishing their podcast. Delva explained that they had been debating whether to release the podcast through Tufts Podcast Network or Tufts’ radio station, WMFO.

“We … [realized] we would be limited [in both],” Delva said. “If we go on WMFO we can’t swear or anything, so people are automatically policing themselves in the conversation. Also, we don’t know how that would limit us to broadening it past Tufts.”

Joseph said he and Delva aim to draw listeners not only from Tufts, but also from surrounding communities and universities.

“I want this to blow up,” Joseph said. “I think this has the potential to be really big. I would love to see this go beyond the Tufts campus and slowly spread.”

The number of listeners they reach, however, is not the most important component of this new endeavor, according to Joseph.

“Our ultimate goal is not to become famous, but to get people thinking about the world,” Joseph said. “That’s my goal, just to change the way people see things and hopefully … encourage people to engage with others in a more civil way as well.”

According to Joseph, there will be new episodes on social and political issues every Thursday.


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