Activist Picnic Hosts Breadth of Student Groups

Swarthmore activists gathered this past Saturday afternoon for the activist orientation picnic, having relaxed conservations and sharing new activities plans. Swarthmore Feminists, Swatties for a Dream, STAND, Swarthmore Chinese Society, Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine, Swarthmore Labor Action Project were a few of the student groups that took part in the event.

“It’s a space where we could have longer conversations so that first-year students can really find out what kinds of different campaigns that are happening,” said Rachel Giovanniello ‘14, one of the organizers of the picnic, “It’s also cool for upper class students to get to talk to each other and hear what’s going on.”

Swarthmore Feminists, standing for equality and justice among all genders, shares “certain political goals that we work toward, like reproductive justice and equal pay, for instance,” Leah Foster, the president of the organization, said in an email.

Last spring, the group screened the movie Miss Representation, about sexism and the media, and held a faculty-student panel on body image and the media. They also brought in blogger Latoya Peterson and Voices of Men performer Ben Atherton-Zeman.

This year, Swarthmore Feminists plans to hold an alumni event, invite a speaker to come, continue hosting faculty panels and have a lobby training day off campus. The first meeting for the semester is this Sunday night.

To end modern day slavery worldwide, Natalia Choi’15 and Aileen Eisenberg ‘15 are considering initiating a chapter of Free and Slaves, an international nonprofit organization. Working on ending slavery since high school, Choi and Eisenberg hope to “focus on bringing attention to the fact that there are 27 million people in slavery nowadays and brainstorm creative ways to engage in actions to abolish modern day slavery.”

“Since modern day slavery is a broad and complex issue that touches on issues of poverty, discrimination, globalization, and development, we are excited to coordinate with other groups on campus to galvanize efforts to fight slavery together,” said Choi.

Gender issues and contemporary slavery are only a few of Swatties’ concerns. Swatties for a Dream is a student organization that mobilizes support for “undocumented students’ rights, access to higher education, and immigrant rights,” said Jovanna Hernandez ‘13, one of the co-founders of the group.

Two years ago, Swatties for a Dream campaigned for Swarthmore to support the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow certain illegal immigrants to obtain higher-level education. To receive student support for the campaign, the group built coalition, hosted panels, screened films and demonstrated to heighten people’s awareness.

This year, Swatties for a Dream is campaigning for equitable admissions to undocumented students and will take part in Tri-co demonstrations.

“Since Swatties for a Dream works closely with Mawrter’s for Immigrant Rights and Ford’s for Immigrant Rights and Philadelphia’s Dream Activist PA.,” Jovanna said, “one of our concrete first goal is to urge Swarthmore to follow Bryn Mawr’s commitment and state that, ‘Swarthmore College does not discriminate on the basis of citizenship status,’ as Bryn Mawr College explicitly states in their Frequently Asked Questions for First Years.”

Swarthmore’s Labor Action Project is a student-worker solidarity group.

“We spent last year talking to workers and came up with a list of seven demands,” said Kate Aronoff ’14, a member of the Project. These demands include an “increase in living wage, grievance procedure and contract parity,” according to Aronoff, and the group will be running a campaign based on that.

Swat STAND, a chapter of STAND, a student anti-genocide coalition, hopes to bring more open discussions on mass atrocity issues, according to president Danny Hirschel-Burns ’14. “There’s only so much students can do to stop genocide right now. A lot of people here are going to be the next leaders, so we want them to be informed, knowledgeable and critical about mass atrocity issues,” Hirschel-Burns said.

The picnic hosted only the first of many discussions the student groups hope to have on campus this year.

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