With the results of this year’s election, our nation is experiencing a rise of fear amongst people of color, women and the LBGT community. With violent and nonviolent protests occurring throughout the country, one professor wants to see change made in our community.
Professor Sanjukta Ghosh is organizing a safety pin movement event on campus to unify the school. She hopes this event’s messages and actions will transcend more than just one day.
“Language matters, language hurts. Language can tear us apart and bring us together,” said Ghosh.
Ghosh said that the language that has been used in this election year has been xenophobic, homophobic, racist and sexist. But she wants to counter it.
“What is the counter of divisiveness? Unity. Unity of all peoples, all political persuasions and all gender identities,” said Ghosh.
This is what she hopes for. No one would be turned away or shamed for coming to the event. However Ghosh wants attendees take a pledge or read up on how to be an active bystander before putting on the pin. She doesn’t want the wearing of safety pins to be a hollow gesture.
“The initial idea was to have a unity march through campus along the lines of what PAC does for Take Back The Night rally. My students floated the idea to reclaim and coming together and saying this is everyone’s space,” said Ghosh.
A student later came to her and suggested to have candle vigil where each candle symbolizes something.
Ghosh added, “We want to have an after effect. Not just a one time rally and that’s were the safety pin comes in.”
Others agree with Ghosh that the safety pin movement is a good stepping point for change in our community.
“I think the safety pin movement has potential to create a visible safe space for folks, but I also think it is a band aid where a tourniquet is necessary. This is a first step of a much more difficult journey,” said Professor Linda Olson.
Olson also believes that the Castleton community can serve as a model to others about ways that we can encourage unity and to create a safe space both on campus and in the larger community.
“For example we could have a table with useful information for safe intervention for bystanders. Folks interested in participating could read the material and sign a pledge that they will intervene on behalf of someone else; the pin then symbolizes this commitment,” said Olson describing the potential after effect of the event.
However Sarah Chambers believes that the safety pins are a good gesture but not what we need.
“It’s great that we are going to acknowledge the unsettled feelings that people have been having since the election,” said Chambers.
Chambers feel that there are too many pros and cons to the safety pin movement and that it is a less active role in helping.
“I feel that if people are naturally prone to being active participants they will do the right thing when the situation arises. We shouldn’t need a pin to be nice people,” said Chambers.