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Social Justice Week facilitates discussion on campus

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 02:02


Rebecca Dann

The community gathered to talk about issues like human trafficking and discrimination during Social Justice Week.


What started in 2009 as alumna Megan Connolly’s senior project has grown into an annual event to raise awareness about social justice. Last week was Kenyon’s fifth Social Justice Week, featuring events hosted by student groups including Not For Sale, WKCO, the Horn Gallery, Canterbury Kenyon, and the Discrimination Advisors. 

Since its first year, the organization of the annual events has fallen to whichever Kenyon students stepped forward. This year, James Plunkett ’13 and Tyann Jacobs ’14, working with the Christian student organization BE:, were those students. 

“There aren’t a lot of outlets for action in the College community, so it’s a great opportunity for campus organizations to come together,” Plunkett said. 

This year’s Social Justice Week events brought attention to and opened dialogue about issues including human trafficking, resistance music, and discrimination. Not For Sale, an organization that fights human trafficking and modern-day slavery, participated in the Red Thread Movement, selling bracelets made by women rescued from slavery. 

The women are given appropriate wages for their work and additional proceeds support anti-trafficking border units and safe houses for rescued women. The bracelets themselves are a way to raise awareness about human trafficking, which is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. 

“I think it’s important to know that these issues may seem so big and you may think you can’t make a difference, but the truth is, even one person just talking about human trafficking is making a difference,” said Claire Dutton ’14, president of Not for Sale. “And when words become effort, like the Red Thread Movement, which was started by a college student, it shows that one person can make a difference in the world no matter how big or intimidating the issue.”

Dutton added that she supports Social Justice Week as a way for different groups on campus to draw attention to issues of which students might not normally be aware. 

“If you’re looking for one thing you can do in the next five minutes to make a difference, just educate yourself, look it up, do some research.” Dutton suggested an easy way to start getting involved would be to attend Not For Sale meetings in Bemis Music Room at 6:00 p.m. on Mondays. The meetings are open to the entire campus.  

WKCO hosted an event at the Crozier Center for Women about music’s role in resistance movements, with a discussion led by Professor of International Studies Stephen Volz and Chair of the American Studies Department Peter Rutkoff. Volz, who specializes in South African history, discussed the role of music in the anti-apartheid movement. 

Rutkoff opened his discussion by asking the students in the room what they thought social justice meant. Students defined social justice as “the pursuit of an enlightened community,” “a group effort, trying to restore or give a group a voice that it didn’t have before.” The students agreed the greatest distinction between charity and social justice is that charity is a temporary solution, while social justice is permanent. 

Rutkoff then urged the students to work within their own communities, where he said they all have the ability to make visible and immediate change. “It has to be about the world you can act on,” Rutkoff said. He encouraged students to become involved in direct action in their communities. 

Mary Hollyman ’14, who helped organize the WKCO event, saw Social Justice Week as an opportunity to use the radio as an outreach tool. “It’s cool for the radio to branch out and have different kinds of broadcasting,” she said. “Radio is the biggest student organization and it’s great to use it as a go-between to increase communication within the Kenyon community.”     

During Social Justice Week, Dutton said, “I think it’s very important, it’s issues that every group on campus should be a part of because it’s all about human rights and it encompasses a wide range of issues around the world. It should be longer than a week, social justice month, semester, everything.” 

Although the week is meant to draw attention to social justice issues and raise awareness, as the groups that participate are on campus and active all year long. The Discrimination Advisors, who sponsored a social justice discussion in Peirce Lounge during the week, work year-round to keep the College informed about discrimination and diversity issues, and to foster an environment of diversity and openness. Both the Discrimination Advisors and Not For Sale will continue to be active in the projects they highlighted and goals they set in Social Justice Week. The Discrimination Advisors collaborated with Crozier to host a documentary on Monday, and the Red Thread Movement bracelets will still be available from Not For Sale.

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