UCSC Currents online

Front Page
Awards and Honors
Classified Ads
In Memoriam
Publications UCSC in the News

November 17, 2003

Students organize conference focused on ‘practical activism’

By Jennifer McNulty

The eye-opening classroom experiences of college are even more enriching when students get involved in the issues they’re 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: Jennifer McNulty

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 College,

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. Women’s 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. “I’d just gone through the College Nine core course and had learned so much about what’s 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?” asked Dunklee.

“Grapes. What corporation bought Santa Cruz-based Odwalla? Coca-Cola. What are some of the companies owned by Altria? Philip Morris, Kraft, and Nestle.”

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.

“I’m 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. It’s 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. “That’s not right. If you’re going to kill somebody, you need to make sure they did it. I want more people to be aware of what’s 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 they’re not apathetic, they do care, is the first step toward inciting change,” she said.

Return to Front Page

  Maintained by pioweb@ucsc.edu
UC Santa Cruz Home Page Contact Currents Currents Archives Search Currents Currents Home Maintained By Email Contact