Upon returning from abroad last spring, junior Claire Turpel sent out nine emails to presidents of eight student clubs, asking each to join her in forming what would be called the Justice League.
While at the University of Reading west of London, Turpel joined a group called the Campaigns Forum, an organization concerned with raising awareness of a variety of social justice issues. She was so inspired by it that she decided to create a club like the Campaigns Forum here at McDaniel.”When you’re at college, you get isolated from what’s going on, and that’s not necessarily anyone’s fault,” she said.
Turpel emailed the presidents of the McDaniel Democrats (Pat Johnson), College Republicans (Janice Watson), Active Minds (Kate Maloney), Black Student Union (Lia Snow), Allies (Brittany Wells), Women’s Issues Group (Laura Descher and Siri Hiltz), International Club (Salini Jayamuni), and Environmental Action Club (Ember Fleming). She herself was the president of Amnesty International.
She said they were all very willing and excited to be a part of the group she was forming. Fleming was particularly surprised, because she thought that “when people think of social justice they don’t really think of the environment,” she said. “So I was happy that Claire approached me, and I was really glad to have my club involved, because we have a great group of people this year.”
Maloney said Turpel attended one of their meetings in order to talk about the Justice League, and that they joined because “we wanted to promote a cause and raise awareness. It’s important to not only be aware but to take action.”
After creating the League, Turpel planned a week of events, to take place November 10-14, to promote the group to the campus?complete with a kick-off party, tasting of locally-grown food, open-forum, a movie screening of Fern Gully and Dead Man Walking, recycle games, trash quest and tie-dye making, and “social justice” trivia.
Different clubs sponsored certain events throughout the week. During the kickoff party, students could make friendship bracelets with Active Minds and cut out hands and write what you’re most thankful for with the Environmental Action Club (EAC). There was also a box to put questions or topics to raise in the open forum.
“I wanted to keep it really open, any issue that the clubs promote, human rights in China, recycling issues, Lesbian/Gay/Bi-sexual/Transsexual/Questioning alliance issues, anything” said Turpel.
That Wednesday night, Turpel kept the forum casual by having everyone introduce themselves and say their favorite ice cream. One newcomer responded with, “Mint-chocolate chip and Eric,” and a girl looked up and said, “I’m eating Eric.”
The group of students addressed such issues as “Did Sarah Palin do a disservice to women’s issues?” and “Will racism dissolve now that Obama is our President?” and “Is helping the environment or the human race more important to you and why?”
Junior Stacey Kight thought the forum was “a fantastic opportunity for students to come and talk about things that are so much bigger than themselves.”
Like Turpel, Kight feels that “it’s essential for college students like us to get together and talk about these issues because it’s so easy for us to get wrapped up in our own hectic schedules and inevitably disregard the big picture.”
Snow, president of the Black Student Union, had an optimistic take on the state of our country concerning these issues. Conceding that awareness still needs to be raised, she exclaimed, “But there are people like us. There’s hope!”