Social justice organizations engage with campus community at annual event

Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 6:05pm

The fifth annual “So Cool So Just” social justice student organization fair took place Thursday afternoon in the Diag.

The event — sponsored by the Community Action and Social Change minor, the Center for Engaged Academic Learning and the Ginsberg Center — aims to be an opportunity for University of Michigan student organizations and departments engaged in social change to interact with the campus community and spread awareness.

“It gives a space for students who care about creating change on campus and in the community an opportunity to be able to partner with other students and faculty and staff to make a difference,” said Brianna Jackson, the student administration assistant associate at CASC. “We just want to give students a space to do that change work now instead of feeling like they have to wait until after graduation or until they get a job.”

She said CASC aims to reach as many organizations as possible throughout the planning process to ensure active participation from a diverse range of organizations.

“We reach out to student orgs that we personally have a relationship with, as well as orgs who have participated in the past or know of anyone else on campus,” she said. “There’s so many different organizations on campus that we can’t keep track of. We really look to the student population to say, ‘Here’s this really awesome organization that should participate.’”

Danyelle Reynolds, lead of student leadership for change at the Ginsberg Center, said the Ginsberg Center, CASC and CEAL jointly collaborate to support those involved in as many ways as possible. For example, Reynolds said the three sponsors offer the participating groups a chance to meet one another prior to the event.

“So they got to meet each other, they got to talk about how they conceptualize social justice,” she said. “I think some groups are actually going to be doing some collaborations with each other throughout the year, which we know is an important part of social change.”

She also said for students, the event is a welcomed alternative to Festifall — an annual recruiting event that attracts participation from more than 500 University organizations.

“At Festifall, students might be feeling very overwhelmed by the amount of organizations but know that they’re passionate about one social justice issue or just social change in general,” she said. “This would give them a more manageable amount of organizations to learn about or just people to engage with.”

Public Policy junior Gloriela Iguina-Colon represented the Program on Intergroup Relations booth at the fair. Along with LSA senior Katie Gamalski, Iguina-Colon said they were there to spread awareness about IGR — a social justice education program — and its branches. She said that having the event in the Diag made the booths more accessible to the campus community and resulted in greater student traffic. However, she noted that when it takes place in the Union, those who attend tend to engage intentionally to learn more about social justice.

"We didn't know what to expect exactly because the Diag is a great place for student orgs, but we understand that a lot of people are on their way to class and might not take the time to stop," Iguina-Colon said.

While the event attracts students across campus, Iguina-Colon also said that the fair provides a great networking opportunity for those in the social justice community, who are not necessarily aware of one another, to connect.

Thirty-five organizations were present for this year's “So Cool So Just.” The Sociology Department and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center were also in attendance.

The Harry Potter Alliance was one organization with a table set up at the Diag. Co-marketing director Katie Donnelly, an Art & Design senior, said they work to juxtapose themes from stories like the Harry Potter book series against real world issues to inspire activism.

Donnelly wrote in an email to the Daily that the event provided an opportunity for the organization to strengthen its involvement in campus activism.

“We attended the So Cool So Just fair as a chance to interact not only with students who are looking to join an organization like ours, but also with other student organizations that have similar goals and values,” she wrote. “I think it’s an important event because it highlights social justice issues and gives students a chance to get involved and become part of the solution.”