By Kevin Hong
OPEN (Anti-Oppression Peer Education Network) is a new organization dedicated to promoting social justice. The group meets in the Voicebox on the third floor of the JRC, which used to be Grinnell’s student activist center.
“The problem with the old Voicebox is that even though it is a wonderful organization, [it] was not meeting the needs of the student body, since activism has really changed in Grinnell with the ebb and flow of students,” said Hannah Kapp-Klote ’13, one of OPEN’s organizers.
While the location will keep its title, the group is different from the old Voicebox in that the steering committee is the OPEN organizing team.
Fifteen students applied to the organization with ideas about social issues they were concerned with and activities that they wanted to promote. This semester, the group members are going to be planning a variety of events on campus related to the topics that they’ve chosen.
“We are trying to give the OPEN leadership team and all the students on campus who are interested in activism the opportunity to have the resources that they need to do effective and productive programming,” Kapp-Klote said.
One of OPEN’s functions is to make organizing events easier.
“Let’s say you want to bring a speaker to campus,” Kapp-Klote said. “This can be really difficult to do all by yourself, especially when you don’t have a student group that you are actively involved in.”
This is when OPEN may come in handy. The group can offer information about working with other campus groups and they distribute “frequently asked question” documents which contains resources available on campus and how to utilize them. OPEN also has a group of people who are excited to work together and help students in different ways.
“We have people who can help you reserve a room, tell you how to raise money and teach you all the details you need to work on,” Kapp-Klote said. “It’s also very important because it creates community. At Grinnell, even though there are plenty of people who are doing exciting things, [it can be] insular and people sometimes do not have time or energy because they are busy doing their own things, so there will be incredible events being thrown on campus but no one will attend.”
The OPEN group is also working on building relationships with organizations and individuals, to make sure that they are supporting each other. Each OPEN organizing team member is supposed to put on an activist event.
“It could be having a protest or bringing a speaker to campus, but it could also be organizing a group of thirty people to go see a speaker, or throwing a potluck for people who are frustrated on campus for the lack of opportunities for vegans,” Kapp-Klote said.
Summer Wilke ’15 is an active member of OPEN and is interested in promoting students’ ability to have meaningful dialogues.
“I feel social justice is an everyday commitment that can be as simple as ensuring that others around you respect the community as a whole,” Wilke said. “I intend to host an event that tells people how to hold a successful dialogue about controversial issues. Social justice is most successful when communication is done properly and learning to do this would be a great step towards a better community on our campus.”
This is the first semester that OPEN will be operating, and group members see potential for growth.
“The ultimate goal is to increase the capacity of all Grinnellians to promote social change,” Kapp-Klote said. “Whatever that means to them.”