November 17, 2003
Students organize conference focused on practical
By Jennifer McNulty
The eye-opening classroom experiences of college are even more enriching
when students get involved in the issues theyre learning about,
according to a group of UC Santa Cruz students who organized a daylong
conference, Practical Activism: Lessons in Local and Global Change.
|Students working on the Practical
Activism conference include (left to right): Lizzie Dunklee,
Victoria Paal, Hamza El-Falah, Adam Thompson, Sarah Davidson. In
the foreground are Praveena Gadiraju and Lakeya Cherry. Photo:
The November 15 event was designed to highlight opportunities for
community and global activism that complement classroom learning.
The university provides a lot of reasons for people to get involved,
said student adviser Victoria Paal, a UCSC junior majoring in sociology
and politics. We thought it was important to provide opportunities
for direct involvement.
More than 300 people attended the conference, which was free and open
to the public.
Twelve workshops addressed issues such as the digital divide, military
spending in Iraq, ethics and science, and using music to transform the
world. The broad range of topics was designed to provide something for
everyone, said Paal, a native of Washington, D.C., who has worked on
issues from housing to animal rights.
I think you can find an issue of justice on any topic,
said Paal. A core group of about 15 students met three times a week
during fall quarter to plan the conference, which was the brainchild
last spring of Wendy Baxter, programs coordinator of Colleges Nine and
Ten. The event was sponsored by College Nine, College Ten, and Oakes
|This image was used on a poster for the conference.
Students were in charge of choosing workshop topics, inviting participants
and keynote speakers, and developing interactive programs. Womens
studies professor Bettina Aptheker and Jeremy Glick were scheduled to
deliver the keynote addresses.
Lizzie Dunklee, a sophomore and math major from Amador County, got
involved as a freshman last spring. Id just gone through
the College Nine core course and had learned so much about whats
going on in the world, and I wanted to help change it, she said.
Dunklee and Kendra Ramsey, a sophomore majoring in sociology, planned
to open their Responsible Consumerism workshop with an interactive
quiz-style game designed to heighten consumer awareness while creating
an engaging learning experience.
What crop in California leads to the most acute poisonings?
Grapes. What corporation bought Santa Cruz-based Odwalla? Coca-Cola.
What are some of the companies owned by Altria? Philip Morris, Kraft,
Dunklee, whose own consumer choices include purchasing only cruelty-free
hair-care products, said she hoped the conference will make it easy
for students to get involved. She visited core courses across campus
to promote the conference and earned independent-study credit for her
work on the event.
Im loving it, she said of the experience. I
want to teach, and this is helping me work on my verbal skills and develop
the leadership skills that will stay with me forever. Everyone has been
working so hard. Its the best feeling.
Lakeya Cherry, a senior majoring in psychology and legal studies, stepped
forward to help lead a workshop entitled, Criminal Justice? Race,
Class, and the Prison Industrial Complex. Cherry was eager to
share some of what she has learned studying with UCSC psychology professor
Craig Haney and completing an internship in Washington, D.C., in the
Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
When I came to Santa Cruz, I had bought into the stereotypes
of criminals I got from the media. I thought they were bad people,
recalled Cherry. But now I see how social conditions affect how
people turn out--things like poverty, abuse, the lack of rehabilitation,
and the tough-on-crime approach.
Decrying the prevalence of racial profiling throughout the criminal
justice system, Cherry said it is particularly evident in the war on
drugs and in the application of the death penalty. I used to be
pro-death penalty, but more than 100 people on death row have been found
innocent because of DNA evidence, said Cherry. Thats
not right. If youre going to kill somebody, you need to make sure
they did it. I want more people to be aware of whats going on--to
have some facts and know where to go to get more involved.
Paal recalled moving to Santa Cruz and feeling like she was living
in an isolated bubble.
It was hard to connect with other activists, she said.
The conference was designed to bring together a large number of people
who are eager to work for social justice, she said.
Getting a bunch of people in a room together so they can realize
theyre not apathetic, they do care, is the first step toward inciting
change, she said.
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