A group of students, inspired by the departure of Psychology Professor Sarina Saturn — who is leaving UP at the end of January — are holding a spirit week to celebrate and emphasize the visibility of students from marginalized groups on campus this week, Jan. 24-28.
“My understanding is that the intention here is to get people involved,” Grace Fortson, one student involved in the week of action, said. “It's to have people do something physically each day, to wear a certain color to signal to themselves and to everyone else on campus, ‘Hey, this is an issue I care about’.”
The week of action is also meant to inspire larger discussions in the community, and offer opportunities for students and faculty to start those conversations.
“The conversations had about this week of action are huge,” Fortson said. “Because it can be really hard to all of a sudden bring up disability justice in your chemistry class. Sometimes these conversations are hard to start in your workplace or with your friends, but having this impetus of, ‘Hey, I want to talk about a justice issue. Here's the justice issue of the day. Here's some more information about this justice issue so you can talk about it,’ is really important.”
Those involved emphasized the importance of recognizing and celebrating QTBIPOC students, as well as centering their experiences on campus in an affirming way.
“It’s mainly a celebration of QTBIPOC students,” Beth Chvilicek, another student involved in organizing the week of action, said. “There’s even a larger emphasis on the struggles that QTBIPOC students face at UP. We are often used as a statistic or a number that the [administration] will use to their advantage at some points and then completely ignore when they really need resources.”
The week will culminate in a gathering in the academic quad on Friday, Jan. 28 for students. Fortson stressed that the event is not a demonstration, though some might see it that way.
“It’s just a community space, because there aren’t any others,” Fortson said.
Saturn hopes that the week of action will last beyond this semester, to become a yearly event, so that students can continue to foster a community of affirmation and belonging.
“I hope next week is a kind of a tradition where there's always a spirit week for justice,” Saturn said. “So that people will realize that it can be very isolating when you are in an environment where you don't feel affirmed, when you feel like there are structures that deny your ability to exist or to be your true, authentic self.”
“I'm hoping that this will help build affirmation and community and traditions,” Saturn continued. “We just want people to feel less alone and less isolated in their experiences and identities to know that there's a huge community that is here to build affirming inclusive spaces.”
Will Mulligan is a reporter with the Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.