The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Peace and Justice Summit strives for unity in student social justice movements

Peace and justice are only possible through con-versation and collaboration

When I imagined college life as a young senior in high school, I pictured weekly protests against the most recent injustice, student movements advocating for peace, and individuals’ public opinions on the most recent political instance.

I was eager to experience a campus that was politically active and vocal – determined to define, not inherit, the discourse.

While SMU may not have fulfilled my pipe dreams of 1960s era student activism, you might be surprised at how active, vocal and political our school is.

No, I’m not talking about Berkeley, and I’m not talking about students at Brown. I’m referring to students right here at SMU.

There are tons of student organizations here on campus who are dedicated to peace, justice, advocacy, volunteerism and bettering the community. Working on everything from environmental issues to freeing innocent prisoners to women’s equality to social justice to international peace; these groups are replete with dedicated, hard-working SMU students.

Nonetheless, amidst this tireless labor, exists one fundamental error. Namely, there is a lack of unity between groups. This is a very simple flaw, but it has crippling effects.

To be clear, I do not propose the amalgamation of every group committed to peace, justice, volunteerism, advocacy and bettering the community. That proposition is both practically unsustainable and ideologically undesirable. These groups possess distinct foci and diverse approaches. That must be both recognized and validated. I do propose, however, that each of these groups enter into conversation.

Now, what do I mean by that? Specifically, I insist that student leaders from every group dedicated to peace, justice, advocacy, volunteerism or bettering the community should sit down in one room (at least once a semester) and have a conversation. Discussing both their organization’s overall initiatives and concrete projects, this conversation would address a systemic problem at SMU – a lack of awareness.

Student leaders would learn about the wide array of groups on campus and their distinctive missions. It’s easy to feel alone in your fight for justice or peace or liberty. On our campus, at least, I would prefer that no organization is alone in its dedication to a particular issue. Why, then, would we remain isolated in our struggle for peace and justice?

Indeed, more than just accumulating companies, there are simple, concrete byproducts of this conversation. A centralized “peace and justice” calendar, for example, would provide a portal for students to find all event and meeting information for these groups.

Another crucial product of this conversation is collaboration. Yes, there are over 40 groups on campus dedicated in some way to promoting peace, justice, advocacy, etc. However, not only do many of these organizations lack awareness of other groups promoting similar agendas, rarely do groups partner or collaborate on projects.

Collaboration is, in my opinion, the true sign of an active, connected campus. For it is not only the Women’s Center who is concerned with equal pay for women. Nor is Amnesty International alone in its hope to exonerate wrongly convicted individuals. I highlight these organizations because they have both collaborated with other organizations on campus in advocating for these particular causes.

Collaboration must occur for any individual group to succeed in giving a voice to its particular concern. It is essential because it incorporates more people in your cause, it increases the visibility of the issue, and it diversifies your approach to your goal.

Two years ago, as a sophomore, I saw these same patterns on our campus. I envisioned what I call “The SMU Peace and Justice Summit” as a response to the lack of awareness and collaboration among groups committed to peace, justice, advocacy volunteerism and bettering the community. The summit seeks to bring student leaders together to engage in conversation and collaboration at SMU.

The idea did not stick then, but I am confident that the need has not disappeared.

Quite clearly, there is a multitude of work on our campus for peace and justice, yet there is a dearth of solidarity in this work. I challenge and urge every student leader involved in peace, justice, advocacy, volunteerism or bettering the community to participate in the SMU Peace and Justice Summit. Our campus, Dallas, and our world need your dedication to collaboration and conversation.

Drew Konow is a senior religious studies, foreign languages and literatures major. He can be reached for comments or questions at [email protected].

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