President Bertolino calls Social Justice Month a success
Josh LaBella – News Reporter
Southern Connecticut State University President Joe Bertolino said Social Justice Month went very well and, hopefully, was the start of larger conversations moving forward.
“I was particularly pleased with the variety of programs and the work of the president’s commission on social justice,” said Bertolino. “I think I was really pleased with how students reacted and handled themselves when we had some controversial folks on campus.”
In reference to the Nov. 2 religious demonstration in front of Buley Library, Bertolino said students expressed themselves while being respectful. He said they represented the school and the student body well. Bertolino said in general the feedback he’s gotten on the month long event was positive.
According to Bertolino, the message of social justice resonates with campus. He said given what’s happening in the world today, where many conversations are challenging and painful, talking about issues of race, religion, hate and even sexual harassment can be hard.
“Especially when you’re sitting across from someone who is passionate about something that you find particularly offensive or hurtful,” said Bertolino. “Trying to maintain that balance of listening, while at the same time, expressing your viewpoint and doing it in a passionate way as well. It can be challenging.”
Bertolino said he had a few favorite moments from Social Justice Month. He said he liked Gala de Noche, state Senator Ted Kennedy’s discussion of disability rights, and Phi Beta Sigma’s presentation on the issue of the flag, sports, and race. At the end of the day, he said, his favorite part was the protest of the religious demonstration because of how students handled themselves.
“In fact, about a week or so after that occurred, the Christian Intervarsity Fellowship stood outside with signs that said something like ‘Jesus loves all of us,’” said Bertolino. “It was our own students who were handing out cookies and punch and wanted folks to know that one could be faithful but have a different point a view and were respectful to their fellow classmates. They felt compelled to deliver a different message.”
Bertolino said throughout the month he learned Southern students are resilient. He said he hopes Social Justice Month becomes a year and a year becomes a daily routine in the life of the institution.
“It’s kind of a double edged sword. On the one hand you want to talk about social justice. On the other hand you hope that it will someday just be ingrained in the fabric of what we do,” said Bertolino. “Because it just is.”
Megan Williams, a senior English major, said Social Justice Month is amazing because she doesn’t feel like there’s enough of a voice regarding social justice at the school.
“It’s a concept people think about on an academic level,” said Williams, “but because we’re so focused on learning about it in our books we don’t often stop to think about how it relates to our actual lives, how we live it as students, and how that infiltrates the community at school. And so by having a social justice awareness month we can try and help our student body become more aware of their own actions and the way they may or not be inclusive and exclusive.”
Agnieszka Bartoszek, a senior history major, said the month went flawlessly. She said it was great to see southern students come together for a great cause. Her favorite event, she said, was when Dear World came to the campus and had people take photographs with their message written on them.
“I feel that Social Justice Month makes Southern feel like an inclusive and diverse place that accepts people of all cultures, religions, and sexualities,” said Bartoszek.
Photo Credit: Josh LaBella