Social justice week events include panel discussion with women of color, underrepresented students on campus
This year’s social justice week aims to draw attention to voices in the UW-La Crosse community and beyond that have been historically marginalized, oppressed or otherwise silenced.
“There Is More to the Story: Elevating Silenced Voices” will be the theme of the week, April 1-5, at UWL.
“We wanted to elevate both the level of discourse around social justice — as is always in the mission of the Institute for Social Justice — and to elevate the voices themselves, the untold stories in our community,” says Kate Parker, UWL director of social justice week.
A full schedule of daily lunch-and-learns, research sessions, roundtables, panel presentations and featured speakers are planned. All events are free. Learn more about Social Justice Week at www.uwlax.edu/social-justice.
Underrepresented students will share their experiences of studying, living and working in the community during “A Place at the Table” from 7:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, in Hesprich Auditorium, Graff Main Hall.
Women of color faculty and staff will also participate in a panel discussion, “Intersectional Identities and Experiences” from noon-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, in 2130, Student Union.
Sara Docan-Morgan, associate professor of Communication Studies and moderator for the panel, says she organized it to bring light to the voices of women of color on campus. Panel members include women who are part of UWL’s Women of Color Collective.
Women of color must negotiate multiple marginality in academia: gender, sex, sexual orientation, color, race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, age, motherhood, and more, explains Gita Pai, UWL associate professor of history who will be part of the panel.
Support for women of color on campus
Docan-Morgan and Pai, along with Uttara Manohar, assistant professor of Communication Studies, led the way in creating the Women of Color Collective, a group of UWL faculty, staff and students who identify as women of color. The group provides a space to bond, share struggles and support one another.
“It has been great to meet other people outside of our departments and realize that, regardless of our field of study, there is so much we share,” says Docan-Morgan.
Pai, who grew up in more racially diverse areas of the country, describes standing in front of an all-white classroom at UWL for the first time as “culture shock.” She has also wrestled with a constant need to explain her Indian-American identity.
“I can stand there and tell them — ‘I’m as American as you,’” she says. “Yet, all they see is this person of color. They don’t see the American part of my identity.”
Women of color can also experience daily slights, popularly known as microaggressions. For instance, because of their dual status as a woman and person of color, they have to work harder at establishing their credibility and competence inside and outside the classroom.
When Manohar started teaching at UWL in fall 2017, she experienced work environment challenges like these. The seemingly subtle and ambiguous nature of these incidents led to questions such as, “Did this just happen? Is it okay to feel angry about this? Do I pursue an emotionally-charged conversation or just let it go?”
Sara Docan-Morgan felt that stress early in her teaching career at UWL. When a white colleague introduced her to another white faculty member, the response was: “We have one of those, but ours is from China.”
“Women of color have to decide all the time, ‘Do I address this or do I ignore it and let it perpetuate?’” explains Docan-Morgan. “It creates a mental and emotional burden that doesn’t exist for other people.”
Challenges like this gave Docan-Morgan the idea of creating the Women of Color Collective. She never wants someone to leave UWL because this member of the campus community feels alone as a woman of color. “If we don’t support them, we are going to lose them,” she says.
Learn more about UWL Social Justice week
Learn more about Social Justice Week events at www.uwlax.edu/social-justice. Many events — including two keynotes on Monday and Wednesday — feature UWL students, faculty and staff. Other presentations bring together educators, social justice activists and artists who speak out against oppression and marginalization.
“These stories — among so many others — must be told, and the Institute for Social Justice is thrilled to serve as a platform from which they can be shared with the greater La Crosse community,” says Parker.
Among the many events are:
Monday, April 1. —
7:30-9 p.m. — “Elevating Silenced Voices: Fat is a Social Justice Issue, Too” by Laurie Cooper Stoll, associate professor of sociology and founding director of the UWL Institute for Social Justice, Hesprich Auditorium, Graff Main Hall.
Tuesday, April 2 —
Noon-1:30 p.m. — “Women of Color Faculty and Staff: Intersectional Identities and Experiences,” with Moderator Sara Docan-Morgan, Communication Studies; Amanda Goodenough, director of the Research and Resource Center for Campus Climate; Mahruq Khan, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Uttara Manohar, Communication Studies; Gita Pai, History; and Lee Xiong, Upward Bound; 2130, Student Union.
Tuesday, April 2 —
7:30-9 p.m. — “Gay and Muslim: How I Became Tucker Carlson’s Worst Nightmare,” by Blair Imani, author, activist and executive director of Equality for HER, Hesprich Auditorium, Graff Main Hall.
Wednesday, April 3 —
7:30-9 p.m. — “A Place at the Table,” featuring UWL students. Many departments and offices across campus struggle to find ways to support underrepresented students. This event provides an opportunity for faculty, staff, administration and students to hear the needs of underrepresented students in the UWL community, Hesprich Auditorium, Graff Main Hall.
Thursday, April 4 —
7:30-9 p.m. — La Crosse Reads Presents: Mai Der Vang, author of “Afterland” (Graywolf Press, 2017), which recounts the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum, 3310 Student Union.P