Social Justice Retreat starts a conversation

Jackson VolenecReporter

The Multicultural Center hosted a Social Justice Retreat from Nov. 8 to 10, an overnight event that allowed for students to engage in detailed conversations about social justice issues with their peers at Camp Woodstock.

“I take students away for the weekend in the woods and we talk about hot topics, such as race, class, oppression, society in general, and how that impacts us as students and human beings in general,” said Dian Brown-Albert, the director of the Multicultural Center.

Students were given the opportunity to dissect these ‘hot topics’ in greater detail than the classroom, or one would usually dive into these issues.

“The retreat basically highlights social justice topics like racism and sexuality, things that we usually talk about at school but in a more personal and intimate setting,” said psychology major Katia Bagwell, a senior.

The weekend trip is part of the Social Justice Month on campus, which takes place during all of November and allows for a wide array of different topics regarding the social rights of different oppressed groups of all different types.

“Part of our objective at this university is to be a successful social justice institution,” said Brown-Albert, “and I think one of the best people we can have to advocate for our students is those who are passionate about
social justice and diversity.”

The event drew about 60 students of all different racial and ethnic backgrounds and allowed for them to discuss an array of topics regarding social justice in greater detail than they are typically able to in other contexts. This retreat aimed for the students participating to bond with each other and create new connections with some of their peers that they might not have interacted with prior to the event.

“Personally, I was able to open up more and speak about things I wouldn’t normally have done on my own and feel comfortable doing it, but seeing multiple people open up, it kind of made me vulnerable in that sense,” said psychology major Briana Alvelo, a senior.

Some students were not deeply involved in social justice topics and went to the event to get further educated so they could return to campus with more knowledge and a newfound perspective on these issues from all different peers.

“There were a lot of students who didn’t know a lot about social justice who were there but wanted to learn more about the issues at hand and how they can more actively participate in these topics,” said Bagwell.

Most of the students attending were from many different backgrounds and all got to discuss their experiences regarding things such as their ethnicity or sexuality, and the retreat allowed for detailed conversations from multiple perspectives on campus.

“I think the biggest highlight for me was the diversity of the students who came, because the previous years didn’t showcase that many different groups coming together,” said Bagwell. “But this year we saw so many people come together and learn about topics that they didn’t know about before.”

The students who attended the retreat now discuss about feeling as if they have a closer connection with the people who went, despite not knowing them beforehand.

“I speak to students that I wouldn’t normally say hi to or would not have known thanks to the retreat,” Bagwell said. “We all know things about each other that things would not be typically said on campus.”

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