While some unfortunate events on and off campus have looked to bring certain demographics down, student organizations have banded together to bring the Wittenberg community back up.
Alumni Way played host to the Open-Mic: Rise Above the Hate event on September 26, choreographed by Concerned Black Students (CBS), Student Senate, Women in Power, No Woman Left Behind, Union Board, and the American International Association (AIA). The organizations set the stage for students to speak out on their experiences with discrimination and their reflections on Wittenberg as a place safe from hatred.
Poetry, raps, and personal stories illustrated the reality of inequality and called for respect and strength in an ever diversifying community. Adorned in orange ribbons (the color of respect), students were also encouraged to take part in creating their own pledge to rise above any number of socially crippling practices; pledges against stereotyping, bullying, and intolerance rang out as people approached the mic.
As senior and Student Senate President Max Sullivan revealed, the open-mic actually served as a “kick-off” event for a larger project- the Rise Above campaign. Piloted by senior Bri Betts, President of No Woman Left Behind, the campaign will host more events throughout the year to raise student awareness and participation in anti-hate movements. On the agenda includes a Day of Respect, where students will be asked to wear orange in support of respect and diversity. Also, as senior and co-President of Union Board Katie McLaughlin mentioned, with Union Board’s help the campaign hopes to bring a speaker to campus.
Senior Ashley Milliner, President of CBS, discussed the importance of raising student awareness, emphasizing that students must make it known that they will not passively let discrimination happen. A primary goal of these efforts is to make acceptance and anti-discrimination part of Wittenberg’s mission statement. Milliner recalled that while she considers Wittenberg home, there were times that she felt uncomfortable in her own skin with how fellow students chose to face diversity. Integrating respect for diversity into Wittenberg’s mission statement not only holds the university accountable for its anti-hate stance, but, as Milliner hopes, it will also shift the community’s attitude towards injustices from inaction to action and solidify Wittenberg as a family rather than a group of bystanders.
Students are not the only ones rising above, however. The Rise Above campaign has received resounding faculty support in the form of the Diversity, headed by sociology professor and cultural anthropologist Nona Moskowitz, PhD. A student representative for the committee, senior Tiana Cherry, pointed out that while “students are here but four years,” the faculty will be able to carry on and cement the work against hate students have pioneered. Moskowitz also spoke up, echoing the familiar sentiment that “we cannot let this continue.”
As the Rise Above campaign continues to grow, students may join the movement by joining the contributing organizations or by participating in the events the campaign arranges on campus, and remembering to give respect.