The Social Justice Coalition is a product of discussion that occurred in the wake of the 2015 Jesuit University Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN) Conference. Attendees of the conference brainstormed how they could best apply what they learned at the conference to life back on campus, breaking up into smaller groups to work on goals brought forth by the larger coalition of student attendees. After learning about a variety of humanitarian issues and networking with students from other Jesuit schools, Holy Cross students wanted to find a way to better connect those working for social justice at Holy Cross so that they could unite around social justice issues and be in a better place to connect with the broader JUHAN network when desired.
Conference attendees Brendan Collins ‘16 and Marie Therese Kane ‘18 teamed up with CBL Associate Director/JUHAN chaperone, Isabelle Jenkins, Pax Christi co-chair, Anthony Yakeley ‘16, and SGA Director for Social Justice concerns, Meg Taing ‘16 to bring the idea of a social justice coalition to life during the 2015-2016 school year. The first meetings of the SJC took place in the spring, and the group formally kicked-off in the fall of 2016 under its new leadership. The co-chairs will be the person(s) holding the SGA Director for Social Justice Concerns role, as well as an additional student not in the SGA. Thus, the co-chairs for 2016-2017 are Marie Therese Kane (Eco Action and Pax Christi), Valentine Iwejuo (SGA) and Keith Plummer (SGA).
At the College of the Holy Cross, there is a profound interest in a wide range in matters of social justice, as evidenced by the quantity of Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs). While these clubs may focus on different advocacy areas, there exists an overlap between their members and foundation of Jesuit principles between clubs which unites them. The wide array of groups and the dedicated students involved in them is something both to be celebrated and leveraged for united action to work towards a more peaceful, just, and inclusive society.
The monthly meetings of the SJC will promote communication and foster relationships between Social Justice RSOs and involved students. This forum will serve three main objectives:
- Allow involved students to network and support one another
Social justice work, while meaningful and exciting, can also be exhausting and, at times, demoralizing. Connecting justice-minded students will provide opportunities for them to better support one another in their work for justice and share experiences and learnings from their own RSOs.
- Facilitate collaborative initiatives and prevent initiative overlap
RSO budgets are often tight and student energy is limited. Building relationships between RSOs will allow them to better work together to channel time, resources, and energy into events and initiatives that will be better-attended and not competing with one another, as event-overlap (in both areas of topic and scheduling) has been an issue in the past.
- Serve as a critical mass/point of contact for social justice concerns on campus
Just as SGA is a voice and resource for the general student body, the SJC can serve as a touchpoint for social justice concerns, uniting students to advocate for solutions to social justice issues that are important to Holy Cross students
For example, if there is a natural disaster, current event, or topic that needs to be addressed on campus, the SJC can be an easy way for a student or faculty member to reach a broad number of students. Instead of having individual clubs work separately after a natural disaster, the SJC can unite the groups to say, host a series of related initiatives and work to raise money or resources for a single organization or cause.
This fall the SJC has already began meeting and continuing the discussions that arose from its Social Justice retreat that happened on September 30th. The participants spent a day and a night at the new contemplative center, and collaborated on issues spanning across all organizations present at the retreat. Fr. Campbell of the Jesuits gave a presentation on what is the Mission of Holy Cross and how are we living out that Mission. The presentation brought to light how Holy Cross’s very foundation was grounded on Social Justice work, and how it is living out its mission in today’s day and age.
Through the retreat action plans were made as to how the coalition would operate and how it plans to bring awareness of the various ways social justice work is done in the Holy Cross community. Representatives of Eco-Action, MPE, CBL, Pax Christi, ACT, CASA and various other organizations signed statements of commitment at the end of the retreat, vowing to continue the discussions that transpired over the 2 days, and work together in order to reaffirm the college’s strong commitment to Social Justice.
If you would like to learn more about the coalition, or pursue ways to get involved with the effort contact the members of its E-board!
Keith Plummer ‘17 – Co-chair,
Val Iwejuo ‘17 – Co-chair,
Marie Therese Kane ‘18, Co-chair
Molly Caulfield ‘18, Secretary