Social justice committee changes message


Desteny MaraghReporter

For this year’s Social Justice Month, which traditionally takes place every November, the university will be switching from their usual theme, allyship to anti-racism.

Tracy Tyree, vice president for Student Affairs, said “being an ally is important, but being an ally is not enough.”

“Showing up for people of color and saying ‘I support you’ is not enough, we need to actively do things to become anti-racist,” said Tyree.

She said the anti-racist work is all about action.

The Social Justice committee provides a learning experience for everyone on campus by hosting events that push for unity and equality.

The two changes that the committee made this year to adapt to the virtual meeting space and to develop a focus was to create a theme and then have a smaller number of programs held for that theme.

This allowed for the programs to connect and since the number of programs decreased, it has created opportunity to make each program more in-depth.

“Southern has really been looking at race on our campus and ways to become an anti-racist university, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Tyree.

She said the committee wants the whole campus to think more intentionally about what anti-racism work looks like, individually and collectively.

This comes after many calls to action plans from several different departments on campus, including the Department of Curriculum and Learning’s statement of anti-racism and action.

The department stated they stand in solidarity with Black communities, the Black Lives Matter movement, and everyone working to end police brutality and confront racial injustice.

The department also recognized that statements of solidarity are not sufficient without action.

Jenna Retort, the assistant director in the Office of Student Conduct and Civic Responsibility and coordinator of the Sage Center, said previously the social justice committee would call for programs representing a variety of issues, but now with COVID-19 they took a new approach.

“Allyship is really about supporting communities but anti-racism is really about making a proclamation to stand up,” said Retort.

She said it is important to make “intentional efforts to break down systems of oppression.”

The commitments and goals from the social justice committee includes providing forums that encourage critical thinking about societal topics impacting our university, local, and global communities.

The committee provides opportunities to engage in substantive discussions where varying perspectives are welcomed and respected.

The committee identifies and address systemic barriers to equity, access, and success for students. They do this for students within the university and and outside of it.

The committee has given ways students can be of support and participate in social justice month.

One way is to create opportunities for honest dialogues that deepen understanding about issues relevant in classes and work area.

Students can volunteer at nonprofit events staged on campus and in local communities, respect others’ right to divergent points of view and use critical thinking and knowledge to support perspectives.

The committee said by joining social justice and free speech with critical thinking in and out of the classroom, they prepare students to engage with societal issues on campus, as well as in local communities, the nation, and the world.

In President Joe Bertolino’s letter on social justice, he said “as a public institution, it’s critical that we engage in courageous conversations, taking time to listen, taking time to hear.”

“We have a commitment to ensuring that all members of our community have a voice,” said Bertolino, “and a mutual agreement to ground that voice in dignity, respect, kindness, compassion and civility.”

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