By Elizabeth Ucles
What does the Equity and Justice Council do?
As it states in the Equity and Justice Council (EJC) Constitution for 2017-18, the EJC “plan[s] cultural events that initiate dialogues and further the discussion of issues important to the diverse student community at St. Edward’s University.” Put simply, the EJC deals with diversity and inclusion, from immigration to women’s empowerment. Those who participate in EJC’s programming can engage in discussion and reflection as well as off-campus opportunities for engagement. Recent EJC programming includes the Social Justice Journey, the Voto Latino Power Summit, the Change Institute, the Campus Voices event, the Queer Student Retreat, and the Black Graduation, to name a few.
What do you get out of participating in EJC?
The overall culture of EJC has evolved over the past year. 2017-18 is the first academic year that EJC has functioned under this name. Previously, it carried out work under the title of the Multicultural Leadership Board (MLB). St. Edward’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Joi Torres, attests to how EJC has fundamentally changed since its time as MLB. The MLB used to be centered around programming that celebrated culture rather than delving into the complicated issues of different cultures. While Torres says that this change in focus caused a bit of turnover in terms of participants, she emphasizes the importance of communicating these issues: “What was lacking was an ability for students to really process hard stuff,” Torres said.
Torres went on the say that student organizations like the Black Student Alliance and Latino Student Leaders were forced to analyze their purposes on campus. “What’re we doing on this campus?” Torres asked when describing the thought process behind the organization’s restructuring. In shifting from the MLB to the EJC, the organization gave greater consideration to personal and social reflection and to the implications of the events they sponsored. For example, immigration has been a big topic of EJC’s programming this year; this focus can be attributed to both the national political climate and the university’s freshman common theme on immigration. Torres claims that topics of EJC’s programming stems from the ability to complicate the issue; if a subject is black and white, then EJC will not create programming for it. “How can we can complicate the issue?” Torres said. “When there’s a lot of grey, that’s when a lot of great dialogue can happen.”
How does EJC contribute to the St. Edward’s community?
Since EJC’s refocusing, this year’s programming has transitioned into more discussion and immersion than ever. Notable programs include a couple of Campus Voices events that allowed the St. Edward’s community the opportunity to debrief and reflect on the implications of the Las Vegas shooting and Hurricane Harvey. An upcoming program will send about 15 students on a Social Justice Journey over Spring Break to become immersed in a social justice issue. The student leaders in EJC will also sponsor a campus conference related to immigration and another called the Change Institute. Off campus engagement has proved beneficial: this year the EJC sent over 20 St. Edward’s students to the Voto Latino Power Summit and is preparing for the First-Generation Student Retreat. In EJC’s weekly meetings, coordinators collaborate openly to make events and programs as accessible to students as possible.
Torres emphasizes the impact that college students can have in civic discussion and engagement. Torres urges students not feel defeated because of their age. “Mark Zuckerberg was a college student when he came out with Facebook,” Torres said. College students have the potential to create change, and it starts with conversations through organizations like EJC. “Even if the ideas you implement don’t change the world today some of those seeds that are planted will, or the people that you meet will,” Torres said.
How can students get involved?