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SMC Revamps Justice Awareness Group

Kaitlyn Rabach | Monday, September 2, 2013

“Justice Friday’s” will be one of many events planned to help the Saint Mary’s Justice Education department make a comeback on campus. After one academic year without a department chair, the department will be stronger than ever, interim director Adrienne Lysles-Chockley said.

“There was no one running the department last year, so my job this year is to set the direction of the ship and get the program back on task,” Lyles-Chockley said. “To do this, I am focusing on two tasks: developing the program’s minor courses and setting up different Justice Education programming throughout the year.”

To begin the year, the department launched a series of discussions titled “Justice Fridays”, Lyles-Chockley said. Each meeting will look at justice through a different lens, where students coordinate the dialogue.

“Justice Fridays will be during lunch on Friday before every home football weekend,” Lyles-Chockley said.

Last Friday’s discussion looked at justice through a gendered lens and was led by junior Clare Maher and senior Galicia Guerrero, she said.

“Saint Mary’s students are exceptional in their commitment to justice and I think they need to be a part of the development of the program this year,” Lyles-Chockley said.

Both Maher and Guerrero said they felt the topics of sexual assault and the media’s portrayal of women were important topics worth covering in the first Justice Friday discussion.

“Sexual assault is not limited to ‘Law and Order: SVU’ or to big cities,” Maher said. “One in four College women are sexually assaulted. That is the norm. It is something that needs to be discussed and is truly an injustice.”

Guerrero said the depiction of gender issues in the media perpetuates a system where sexual assault is tolerated.

“Let’s take a look at the media and pop culture,” Guerrero said. “The song ‘Blurred Lines’ for instance. Just in this song you can see a media that is promoting a culture where sexual assault is okay and it really is not.”

Maher said Saint Mary’s is a place where gendered issues can be discussed over a proper dialogue, but encouraged their audience to bring that dialogue outside of campus grounds.

“As bystanders and active individuals in society, we have a duty to inform others of injustices going on in the world,” Maher said. “Gender justice issues are around us all the time and we cannot sit back and let them go on without a proper discussion.”

Guerrero said it is important for individuals to find an issue they are passionate about and work to promote justice in that issue.

Both Guerrero and Maher are involved with the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) on campus. Guerrero said their time spent with this office and director Connie Adams has shaped their views of justice around sexual assault and violence.

“We have both been through Green Dot training,” Guerrero said. “This is a national campaign that works to discuss bystander intervention and how issues of violence should be addressed.”

Through working with BAVO, Guerrero said she realized how certain powerful words have been changed over the course of time.

“In our language the word rape is almost used as a slang term,” Guerrero said. “Sometimes you hear people say things like, ‘That test raped me’. Rape is not something that should be taken lightly.”

Maher said individuals should stand up against injustices even if it means going against the norms of society.

“You know sexual assault is not taken seriously when such a thing as a rape joke exists in our society,” Maher said. “Letting things like this slide means letting a whole lot of other things slide. It really is just perpetuating a system where sexual assault is looked at as okay and where victims are stigmatized.”

Lyles-Chockley said she was excited about the turnout at the department’s first event of the year and hopes future programming events will be just as successful.

“This first event was hugely successful,” Lyles-Chockley said. “I am thrilled because it was quite a challenge to get this done the first week of class, but the attendance, diversity of individuals who showed up and the overall participation were all great. It is a great way to start the year.”