AUTogether: SPLC on Campus at Auburn cosponsors a much-needed event

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On the evening of April 18th, Auburn University’s campus prepared itself for an appearance by notorious white nationalist Richard Spencer. Just hours before, he won the right to speak in the Foy Hall auditorium after initially having his talk cancelled by the university’s administration concerned about safety issues.

Tensions were high, as alt-right and antifascist groups were expected to show up on campus, and many students struggled with finding an effective and appropriate response to the controversial speaker. In response, some decided to protest or attend a student-led music festival on the campus green during Spencer’s talk. Auburn’s SPLC on Campus club helped sponsor a unique event, “AUTogether: Hashing it Out,” which was already scheduled and coincidentally coincided with Spencer’s appearance.

In the previous week, AU SPLC on Campus hosted an AUTogether town hall with the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association (BGPSA) and the Graduate Student Council (GSC). The town hall was advertised as an opportunity to have frank discussion about how the current political climate in the United States is affecting Auburn’s own social climate, especially regarding diversity, racism, and campus policies.

Then, just before the town hall, a group calling itself the “Auburn White Student Union” began flyering all over campus. Auburn University officials denied that the group denied that the group had any affiliation with the school, but the four college administrators who formed the panel at the town hall faced questions and complaints from both students and faculty about the lack of diversity on campus. Some criticism pointed to a perception that university officials dragged their feet in responding to the recently distributed racist, anti-Semitic flyers.

About 40 students attended the town hall. They discussed safe spaces, finding a balance between free speech and hate speech, the experiences of people of color and international students off campus in the broader Auburn community, and what comes next as the administration addresses these concerns. Both students and faculty seemed to have a productive dialogue with members of the university administration, and, one week later, AU SPLC on Campus, BGPSA, and GSC planned AUTogether: Hashing it Out, where participants could delve further into this dialogue with each other, this time in small groups.  At the end of the town hall, they learned that Richard Spencer was coming to campus.

AUTogether: Hashing it Out had been planned weeks in advance, but many erroneously assumed it was a counter to Spencer’s planned speech. Auburn initially cancelled his speech, and white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and antifascists from several states were expected to converge on the college town to protest what they viewed as an assault on free speech. No one could know exactly what was going to happen that Tuesday, but the AUTogether event went on as planned.

Without the presence of university administrators, about 75 students and faculty further discussed many of the same issues raised at the town hall. Beth Cooper McDaniel and Elizabeth Devore from AU SPLC on Campus helped run the event, but Jessica Norton of the BGPSA primarily facilitated discussion. Spencer was mentioned, of course, but this gathering wasn’t about him.

Many were emotional as they talked in detail about the racism, bias, and exclusion they had experienced since they had become a part of the “Auburn Family.” Both white students and students of color spoke frankly about their own ignorance, being an ally, and not being afraid to make mistakes as they learned and grew together in diversity. More events like this one need to be held, they decided, and club leaders running the event were vocal about reaching out to other student organizations to plan them.

That night, the attention of most students and the media may have been on the tense drama surrounding Richard Spencer’s appearance, but the important dialogue at the AUTogether gathering will bear fruit in the future, long after Spencer’s visit is forgotten. We hope it will lead to finding more common ground between Auburn students and faculty and that it will also inspire other organizations and other colleges to do the same.

For more information, contact Daniel at daniel.davis@splcenter.org.

Introducing Shay DeGolier, Outreach and Organizing Specialist for SPLC on Campus!

Hi all! My name is Shay DeGolier, and as Outreach and Organizing Specialist I am the newest addition to SPLC on Campus. The program is young but full of energy and determination to create lasting change on social justice issues across college campuses.  We aspire to have SPLC on Campus clubs across the country to support and encourage student activism.

I was born and raised in Daytona Beach, FL, to a single mother of five, but the struggles faced in my home are not unique to my family. The challenge, to be faced in the midst of oppression, is a struggle I know all too well. I spent my time in college trying to find answers and solutions to many of the problems engrained in our society. I realized it was going to take mass organizing, peaceful protest, and continued resistance to make a change. SPLC on Campus provides a way for students to make a difference and to get involved in the fight for justice.

I graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2014 with a B.A. in Political Science, and I soon began working in the world of political campaigns. I spent time fighting for progressive goals and outcomes through organizing communities, promoting conversations, and even giving speeches to thousands on the importance of joining the movement. I have a passion for creating awareness around injustices and fighting on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society.

I am excited to begin this next chapter with SPLC on Campus in the quest for equality and justice everywhere. We have great plans for student activism, collaborations with other organizations, and educating students about the dangers of normalizing the “Alt-Right.”

I’d love to hear from you! Contact me at Shay.DeGolier@splcenter.org.

If you’d like to get involved or start an SPLC on Campus club at your school, email us at splconcampus@splcenter.org or register at www.splconcampus.org/register/.

A Day Without a Woman

The same people who brought about the massive and highly successful protests all over the world, The Women's March, have organized A Day Without a Woman to take place on International Women's Day, March 8th.

They are calling on women and their allies to "act together for equity, justice and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity."

In order to support this action, do your best to commit to the following three actions:

  1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor

  2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).

  3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman

For more information about A Day Without a Woman, visit this page to read their FAQs.

SPLC on Campus Introduces Four New Focus Areas!

           We at SPLC on Campus have seen a lot of amazing events put on by our clubs all over the country in the past couple of years, from film screenings and voter registration to protests and forums exploring complex issues. Though we encourage the students in our clubs to organize around the issues they care most about, in light of the current political climate as well as actions being held on college campuses everywhere, we offer these four focus areas for your consideration:

RACIAL JUSTICE
            Racial injustice has long been an issue in the United States. People of color often disproportionately face segregated and underfunded schools, the school-to-prison pipeline, and an unfair criminal justice system.
            The school-to-prison pipeline – unnecessary suspensions, expulsions and school-based arrests of children – is just one way that systemic racism pervades across the country and often cuts a child’s education short and increases the likelihood of incarceration. Additionally, the criminal justice system is one marred by vast racial disparities.
            College students are speaking out against racial bias in its many forms, from profiling by law enforcement to implicit and explicit bias in the classroom. They are also demanding that racist symbols be removed from their local communities and names of buildings and monuments that memorialize known racists be changed. At a time when the voices of white supremacists are being amplified and normalized, many students are speaking out and protesting hate speech on campus.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE
            Poor people in the United States are not only facing an economic gap – they’re facing a justice gap. Too often, they’re exploited and abused simply for being poor.
            They’re victimized by predatory lenders who trap them in a cycle of debt and rob them and their communities of resources. They’re denied access to the social safety net by politicians who stigmatize low-income workers and blame them for our country’s problems. They’re exploited and imprisoned by local governments that target impoverished communities for revenue-generating traffic fines – and by companies that seek to profit by charging fees for improper but court-ordered “services” like payment plans.
            Millennials and college students often face unique financial problems, and there has been a lot of organizing around issues such as affordable college tuition, the fight for a higher minimum wage, and the social safety net. Graduate student employees continue to fight for better pay and benefits, and students across the country speak out against income inequality.

IMMIGRANT JUSTICE
            Immigrants perform some of the hardest, most dangerous jobs in our economy – too often for the least amount of pay. Despite this, they’re routinely denied basic protections in the workplace. In their communities, they’re subjected to racial profiling and harassment by law enforcement, as well as being frequently forced to prove themselves innocent of immigration violations, regardless of their legal status. Their children, many of them U.S. citizens or longtime members of the community, are often denied school enrollment or the educational services.
            In response to the spread of racist and xenophobic rhetoric as well as the massive increase in deportations in recent years, many college students are standing up for the rights and dignity of immigrants. More and more colleges and cities have made headlines recently by standing out and declaring themselves sanctuaries so they may protect undocumented immigrants studying and living there.

LGBTQ RIGHTS
            Despite progress across the United States, it is still the case that the LGBTQ community in the South, the Midwest, and other areas continue to face significant barriers to equality.
            There are still many places in this country where employers can fire or refuse to hire people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ people are also vulnerable to discrimination in public accommodations or housing, and the community is frequently victimized by violent hate crimes. In addition, LGBTQ youth often encounter harassment and bullying in school, and they typically make up a disproportionate percentage of homeless youth throughout the county.
            Though state legislatures all over the country have been pushing anti-trans legislation in recent years, students are working with a variety of progressive groups to defeat such bills. Further, students are often fighting against anti-LGBTQ discrimination in their communities and fighting for safe spaces on their campuses.

            These issues are very much a part of the work done by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and we encourage students to work together with each other and with other groups on campus to organize and be advocates for justice and equality for all.

This Week in the News: January 14-January 30

Here's what the SPLC on Campus team has been reading this week. Let us know what you've been reading! Submit articles to daniel.davis@splcenter.org.

Spring Semester Brings a New Coordinator and a New Campaign

Hello, everyone! My name is Daniel Davis. It's been a little over a month since I took over the role of Coordinator for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s college program, SPLC on Campus. Though the program is still relatively young, we have exciting plans for a new campaign, partnerships with other organizations, general expansion, and a focus on organizing student activists in the midst of the repeated normalization of the so-called Alt-Right and their actions held around the country.

Born in Montgomery, Alabama, I have seen firsthand what systemic oppression looks like and what it means to stand against such oppression in the pursuit of justice and equality. I spent several years in high school and college working at the SPLC’s Civil Rights Memorial Center, where there is a particular emphasis on educating the public about the martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement with the understanding that the march for justice continues.

In 2013, I graduated from Huntingdon College with a Bachelor’s in Religion, and I have studied abroad in Heidelberg, Germany, and at Yale Divinity School in New Haven to attain a Masters in the Arts of Religion.  Liberation theology was just one of the various subjects I studied throughout those years, but it has had a tremendous impact on the way I view social justice and privilege in American culture.

Last year’s SPLC on Campus campaign, #RegisterShowUpVote2016, inspired people both to help register new voters and get out the vote. Many new people were registered to vote by our club members, and the SPLC documentary, Selma: Bridge to the Ballot, educated people on the importance of voting and the amount of hard work it took to secure voting rights for many in the United States. I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce our newest campaign, #WhatDemocracyLooksLike.

Inspired by the well-known protest chant, #WhatDemocracyLooksLike is a response to the rampant racism, xenophobia, and other prejudices that have been increasingly pervading political discourse since the beginning of the 2016 Presidential Election. This campaign not only acknowledges the diversity of the electorate but also seeks to emphasize the importance of protest and activism as valid, necessary forms of political expression for progressives everywhere. In addition, SPLC on Campus will use this campaign to address voter suppression as an extreme threat to democracy in the United States.

We've seen the power of mass organizing in the Women’s March last weekend, and we've seen political campaigns and local movements driven by the passion of young activists and grassroots action. As an emboldened Alt-Right is already expanding their speaking tours and recruitment on college campuses, now is the time for us to rise up together to fight against hate and work together for the cause of justice. I look forward to being a part of this movement with you.

Additionally, if you are interested in starting an SPLC on Campus club at your college/university or wish to get involved in our latest campaign, feel free to register on our website or contact me at daniel.davis@splcenter.org.

This Week in the News: January 17-January 23

Here's what the SPLC on Campus team has been reading this week. Let us know what you've been reading! Submit articles to daniel.davis@splcenter.org.

This Week in the News: December 27-January 2

Happy New Year! Here's what the SPLC on Campus team has been reading this week. Let us know what you've been reading! Submit articles to daniel.davis@splcenter.org.

 

This Week in the News: December 20-26

Here's what the SPLC on Campus team has been reading this week. Let us know what you've been reading! Submit articles to daniel.davis@splcenter.org.

Undocumented students grapple with the uncertainty of a Trump presidency by Brianne Garrett, USA Today: http://college.usatoday.com/2016/12/21/undocumented-students-grapple-with-the-uncertainty-of-a-trump-presidency/

University stands by "Problem of Whiteness" course by Amanda Jackson, CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/23/health/college-course-white-controversy-irpt-trnd/

The environmental movement grapples with social justice in the age of Trump by Natasha Geiling, ThinkProgresshttps://thinkprogress.org/the-environmental-movement-grapples-with-social-justice-in-the-age-of-trump-d0cb863c7996#.128xndpen

 

 

SPLC on Campus Welcomes Salve Regina University

Reposted from SRU Mosaic:

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a new club on campus with a focus on civil rights. It aims to make students aware of issues that are going on around the world and encourages them to take action and use their voice to make a change.

Topics of discussion range from election issues to police brutality. Skyla Hudson, the club’s president here on campus, says that their advisor, Dr. Laura O’Toole, thinks it is important to “Pop the Salve bubble.” In other words, students should think on a larger scale, not just in the Salve community.

Right now, they are focusing on a very important issue: the 2016 Presidential Election. At their meetings, they have been discussing the issues brought up in this election and fact checking claims made by candidates in an effort to, as Hudson says, “clarify their own beliefs and values.”

They are also stressing the importance of voter registration. “For a lot of people on college campuses, it’s their first time voting in such a big election,” says Hudson, “and that’s something that we want people to really value.”

SPLC has voter registration tables set up in Miley in partnership with SGA. The club is very new and small in comparison to others, so they decided to partner with other clubs in order to accomplish their goals.

This club is part of a larger national organization. Hudson says that she and others came up with the idea to bring this club to Salve after seeing the club in Birmingham, Alabama on a Civil Rights Bus Tour last spring break.

The process of beginning the club began that same spring and they were up and running by the start of this school year. The club has around fifteen members at the moment.

Members of Southern Poverty Law Center meet every other Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Students are encouraged to get involved by attending meetings, volunteering to work at voter registration tables, or the “United Not Divided” police brutality panel that will take place in November.

The e-board always welcomes students who want to learn more about the club. Hudson says, “I want to see it grow and strengthen, even once I graduate.”