By Graham Reid
The Center for the Study of American Democracy hosted a panel and discussion last night on immigration and immigration reform for a small audience of students in faculty in the Gund Gallery Community Foundation Theater. The panel consisted of Interim Provost Joe Klesner, Professor of Economics Kathy Krynski, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Professor Nancy Powers, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Kathleen Tipler.
With the recent failure of a new immigration bill to pass the U.S. House, Tipler deemed the question of citizenship to be both “timely and timeless.” The panel addressed the issue of immigration and its reform from historical, economic, human rights and political viewpoints.
“I think that … immigrants are so often pushed to the shadows and the way the debate is shaped nationally is so generalized it can be ignorant,” said Caitlin Ramirez ’14, who attended the panel. “I think the way this panel was structured lent itself to a more complex understanding of the issue. The different viewpoints in some ways conflicted but in other ways complemented each other.”
The immigration panel was just one of 10 scheduled events part of Social Justice Week, which began Monday, Feb. 17 and will conclude with a community art show and silent auction on Friday, Feb. 21.
The different events, which range from discussions on the role of the Internet within social justice to a panel of former Peace Corps volunteers, were sponsored by several organizations on campus, including the Center for Global Engagement (CGE), Crozier Center for Women, Indigenous Nations at Kenyon, Sisterhood, Not for Sale, Peer Counselors, Center for the Study of American Democracy, J Street U and Asia Society. Social Justice Week itself, however, was organized by BE: Justice, Kenyon’s Christian student organization. Ty Smith ’14 and Susie Gurzenda ’14 headed the planning.
During Smith’s membership to BE:, she has seen several changes. “My first year, I was involved in [organizing Social Justice Week], we were talking about revitalizing it,” and according to Smith, since then, they have continued to build upon their early ideas.
This year, Smith hoped to incorporate more student voices in the different events. “I really wanted this year’s Social Justice Week to be ‘by the people, for the people,’” she said. “I wanted students to get really involved and make it whatever they were interested in.”
On this goal, Smith thinks Social Justice Week has been successful in allowing a venue for a variety of conversations and campus organizations to promote their projects.
The CGE, for one, has been involved with Social Justice Week since its inception, according to CGE Assistant Director Lisa Swaim. For the CGE, the week’s themes are important because “we work with and support many of the students who organize the week and because our work in international education is about diminishing inequalities of opportunity,” Swaim wrote in an email.
In the future, Smith hopes Social Justice Week will expand to include a cohort of students that would meet regularly to discuss social justice issues and ways in which this interest could be manifested on campus in year-long programming.
Ultimately, Smith said, Social Justice Week “should be of an interest to every Kenyon student because it means that they are active in caring about humanity.”
Tonight, scheduled events include a One Billion Rising Community Art Show and Silent Auction opening at Wiggin Street Coffee at 6 p.m., and a screening in Gund Gallery Community Theater at 7 p.m. of an episode of popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother that features its characters in yellowface, with a subsequent discussion led by Assistant Professor of Sociology Celso Villegas. Tomorrow, the art show and auction will close at 7:30 p.m.