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 Tuesday, February 10, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


Student Perspective: social justice is a skill
by Joanna Nasar, graduate student, Environmental Journalism

During the upcoming Diversity Summit, students, faculty and staff will gather to explore inclusion and interrelations among the campus community. One of the keys to creating an engaged and inclusive campus is to recognize the roles all members play in supporting their fellow students, faculty and staff. In a community, accountability extends to actions taken when bystanders are witnesses to or are in some other way aware of a harmful event – but recognizing these situations and knowing how to respond appropriately isn’t always easy.

Of the many resources available to support community on campus, the Interactive Theatre Project (ITP) is one of the most creative in fostering awareness and conversation about issues in a facilitated setting. “In many styles of interactive theatre, the ‘fourth wall’ separating the audience from the actors on stage does not exist,” said Rebecca Brown Adelman, co-director of ITP. “Audience members are given an opportunity to speak to the characters on stage in a method called forum theatre, and are invited inside the story to try to change the outcome of a problematic situation being played out before them.”

Ten years ago, Adelman and fellow co-director Trent Norman created ITP, and it remains a unique and popular way to creatively explore issues. Since its inception the program has helped campus members to engage and relate to issues by encouraging conversation about characters, situations and decisions while the play is being acted out. The format is open and everyone is allowed to express his or her opinion.

“In a performance centered around sexual assault, we may have a student say it was the victim’s fault for going upstairs, then someone else in the audience may challenge that idea and off we go,” said Adelman. “It is much more important that people learn from each other through these conversations, rather than have someone standing in front of them telling them what to think.”

Alexis Smith, senior and director of Diversity Affairs for UCSU, said long-lasting programs like these are important in building a consistently responsible student body. “It is crucial that students and the administration work together, because students can be cyclical and it can be a challenge to keep programs going,” she said.

Smith works with different student groups and the administration to bridge the gap and facilitate constructive dialogue. “A way to be engaged is for students to first take responsibility for themselves and for every student to understand their privilege,” she said. “Students, faculty and staff can draw on their respective roles as incentives to be involved in meaningful ways on campus.”

As part of the 14th Annual Diversity Summit, The Interactive Theatre Project will present a play, “Who Stands for Me?” on Monday, Feb. 16, from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. in the UMC Glenn Miller Ballroom. The play will explore social justice and how to develop the skills to recognize situations and take appropriate action.

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