Student activists bring social justice alive on and off campus

By Samantha Reid
samonthetorch@gmail.com

fracking- RISE story

At a social justice university like Roosevelt, student activists can be found all over the campus. Several of these activists banded together to form two organizations, slightly different in their goals, but working together to accomplish them: C.O.R.E. and RISE.
C.O.R.E., or the Coalition of Responsible Education, which formed in 2011, bills themselves as an “alliance of student organizations, faculty members and the student body.”
One of the main organizations involved with the group is RISE, a network of student activists.
RISE formed after a group of students from the honors program were assigned a class project for ACP where they worked with Unite Here Local 1, a labor union in Chicago. The students worked with the union on a Hyatt hotel boycott, creating awareness against unfair treatment of the hotel’s workers.
From there, a handful of the students were so passionate about the work they had done that they wanted to bring the social justice mission back to campus. They did so by forming Students for Labor Solidarity, which morphed into RISE last spring.
“At that time, it seemed [as if] the main focus of the group was student solidarity on labor issues,” senior member Alyssa Carabez said. “RISE emerged from this group due to students wanting to take action and organize for issues beyond those regarding labor, like fossil fuel divestment and … sexual assault [on campus.]”
The group’s actions have covered multiple different causes across the board of social justice. The Hyatt boycott was just the tip of the iceberg — RISE members went on to tackle many more pressing social justice issues.
“We demanded that sexual assault on campus be addressed more appropriately and effectively,” Carabez said. “[We also] pushed for [the university] to divest from fossil fuel industries, organized against fracking in the state of Illinois, and worked with IIRON Student Network and The People’s Lobby to initiate social, environmental and political change in Chicago at a recent MLK Jr. Day event on the South Side.”
Students may remember that last year, a large contingent of students and faculty members were unhappy with the way the administration responded to sexual assaults on campus. It was because of students in RISE and C.O.R.E. that the administration was held accountable.
The organizations drafted a letter to President Charles Middleton demanding action, which led to the school’s introduction of sexual health programming at new student orientations.
“RISE’s mission is to build student activist networks on campus, to empower Roosevelt students to organize around the issues that are important to them, and to provide resources, education and training to ensure that student movements are successful,” Carabez said.
The group meets to discuss issues they are currently working on, as well as potential new issues that the group can bring awareness and assistance to. All members have a voice in creating change both on the university’s campus as well as in the greater Chicago community and the world.
For students in RISE and C.O.R.E., social justice isn’t just something mentioned in the university’s mission statement; it’s a way of life.
“We welcome all at Roosevelt to share their voices and concerns about what they are passionate about and know that they hold such power and potential towards change,” Carabez said.
Members can present social justice issues to the organizations which will then put their support behind those causes, raising awareness and participating in various conferences and protest events. Current members boast the benefits they have gained from their involvement in activism.
“Both RISE and C.O.R.E. are organizations that look to create actual change and challenge oppressive systems,” co-founder Gianna Chacon said. “Since being a part of each organization, my leadership skills have grown tremendously, and I have been able to build an activist community not just in Chicago, but throughout the nation.”
Students looking to get involved in activism on campus can attend RISE meetings Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. in WB 1016.
For those looking to do more campus-centered social justice work, C.O.R.E. holds monthly coalition meetings. The next gathering will be March 4 at 3:30 p.m. For more information, students can contact Chacon at gchacon@mail.roosevelt.edu.

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