Gender Women Studies aims to promote campus solidarity

By Christin Watkins

“I think solidarity means you recognize that you can have different positions on a particular topic, but that we find common ground,” said Karen Flynn, associate professor in GWSJT.

From Dec. 1-3, GWS hosted solidarity hours “in support of students working for racial justice on our campus,” according to the event description.

“Solidarity means people putting themselves out there to support you in some way,” said Terri Barnes, associate professor in GWS. “When you say ‘I support what you stand for or what you’re doing, and I want to go out of my way to show that.’”

Students and faculty met in the GWS building, 1205 W. NevadaJT, to discuss current issues of discrimination and to provide a safe space for ideas and conversations about these problems.

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“We want to have this campus be a place where different groups of people speak to their reality, in terms of what’s occurring, what’s happening on this campus,” Flynn said.

Discussing the reality of discrimination on college campuses is essential to reducing it, she said.

“We have to admit that racism is still current,” she said. “[It is] still much a part of our reality.”

The solidarity hours were held two weeks after the creation of the ‘Illini White Student Union’ Facebook page on Nov. 18. The page decried the Black Lives Matter movement as terrorism and threatened to identify students who had attended a black solidarity rally on the Main Quad earlier that dayJT.

“This campus isn’t always a safe place for students of color,” Flynn said.

Realization that these issues are prevalent is a step that is necessary to prevent future controversy, said Jakob Eldridge, freshman in LASJT.

“Recognition of existence sometimes, of the existence of these issues, can be really comforting,” he said. “Everybody’s not against you.”

Allowing an open dialogue is also key, Barnes said.

“I really believe in the power of discussion to educate people, to change people’s minds, to show people what they have in common,” she said.

This allows people to collectively overcome differences, she said.

“People can learn things together,” she said. “That’s a wonderful and a powerful thing. If there’s anything that’s going to save the world, it’s that.”

Conversations can prevent the feelings of alienation that may lead to violence, Eldridge said.

“I think communication is vital,” he said. “It comes to a boiling point where violence can happen. If people feel like they just don’t have any other way to express their emotions or feelings, it can result in violence.”

Linking people through life experiences helps to reduce discrimination from differences, Flynn said.

“I believe we have to teach people love,” she said. “We have to educate people about how our lives are interconnected.”

Barnes notes that GWS is committed to making the University an inclusive and safe environment for all students.

“There really are a lot of people on campus that are committed to making things better,” she said. “That’s been strengthening.”

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