What’s Next: A Discussion About Student Activism

organizing

Monday night, students gathered in the DFC to attend What’s next: an open town hall about campus organizing, a discussion dedicated to discussing campus organizing and community action. The open town hall was organized by Jordan White ’19 and Kazumi Fish ’19. In the Facebook event description, the organizers said that the event was an intentional space for people new to campus organizing and others who have been involved in campus activism for longer to come together and learn from one another. Part of the description read:

Drawing on the impact of last month’s WhoRunsWes community meeting, we want to hold a similar space for people to vent and share their ideas about campus organizing and community action. We want to bring together those who have always done this work with those who wish to begin.

The description also listed clear goals of what the town hall hoped to accomplish:

  • To facilitate communication between students who are interested in pursuing similar endeavors
  • To identify current campus movements and their respective point people
  • To conclude with an accessible, comprehensive document with a list of goals, projects, and contact information. This would ideally become comprehensive enough to share beyond Wesleyan and serve as a tool for other campuses interested in starting something similar or collaborating with us.
  • To mobilize the community towards tangible, accessible, inclusive change

The town hall was structured in two parts: the first, a space for those with current projects to share their contact information—which will be listed below—and, second, a space for discussion. Students voiced their thoughts about campus events, from the recent anti-Trump protest in Middletown to the sanctuary campus petition. For those who were not at the protest two weeks ago, a lot of miscommunication was present due to a lack of proper, explicit planning. The general consensus was that, in future efforts to mobilize, a more concise plan needs to be coordinated and communicated in order for students to be aware of what the intents and actions of the protests are. This campus has an abundance of energy, and we must use it efficiently to have our voices heard.

Throughout the discussion, several students opened up about Wesleyan students using their privilege to defend those who are (and more so within the next few years) marginalized and targeted by the opposing side. With that being said, I think it is still incredibly important, as students who are beginning to politically engage, that we remember to educate ourselves on the messages and tones of future mobilizing efforts.

It seems as if some people come to protest more as an obligation as a Wesleyan student rather than as a passionate believer of the cause; this results in a gap between those who are willing to put more on the line and those who would rather step back. In all honesty, this gap needs to be discussed, and at the end of the day, needs to be honored. Through thorough organization, we can make sure that those who participate are fully comfortable with any future protests.

Among the suggestions for better organizing was a Wesleyan database, perhaps through Facebook/Google Docs, to provide resources for people to educate themselves about the issues at hand. Several suggestions for this database included a sociology-based document and one for protest protocol.

For those who are interested in resources that currently exist and/or have existed in the past couple years, definitely read up on past actions, and check out the University Organizing Center. The University Organizing Center (UOC) is located at 190 High Street and houses a community meeting space, an arts room, the Anti-Oppression Library, the Ankh office, the Hermes office, and Red Feather Studios. It’s been the hub of student activism for decades and holds an open house every semester. In the past, their website was more regularly updated and there used to be a UOC intern (a paid student position) that was employed by SALD. Maybe those can be brought back? Also, another great resource is the list of activism groups on OrgSync.

During the town hall, space was opened to talk about the sanctuary campus petition, and for those who are not aware: there were two petitions, in which both coordinators did not talk to each other over the matter. Those who signed the first petition were contacted with information about the second petition, which is much more thorough. It was expressed that we must demand what we want to see out of Wesleyan; we cannot use flowery words because gentle rhetoric will not suede administration to comply with what we want to see at Wes.

This interconnected discussion will not be the last, and it’s important to remind ourselves that it’s okay if we’re not comfortable with mobilizing yet. And if you are ready, there are people who will be with you in this effort. For those who are more privileged, you cannot depend on minority and marginalized students to speak up at every waking moment; you have a voice, albeit from a different perspective, and it matters. Being an ally does not solely exist for your body showing up in a protest, but rather, as an opportunity to speak up and show support. Whether we want to admit it or not, we need to work together—while providing the spaces necessary for those who need them—and fight for this common cause. We need to constantly facilitate a conversation in order to further unify and gain a new angle on any rhetoric that is being spread. We can do this, but only together.