Photo by Anna Meassick | Rosaria Pisa addresses the audience on heavy subjects such as racism, sexism, discrimination, and politics.
On Oct. 2, a teach-in on gender in politics was held in the Hardge Forum of the Multicultural Student Services Center to discuss and reflect on the Brett Kavanaugh Senate Judiciary Committee proceedings.
Faculty members from Gender and Women Studies, Philosophy, Kinesiology, History, Marine Affairs and the Honors Program made statements on the Senate proceedings thus far. The event also allowed comments and questions from the University of Rhode Island community members.
Rosaria Pisa, director of Gender and Women Studies, began the event with a statement. “Today we come together as a community of learners,” said Pisa. “Various perspectives may offer a broader and greater understanding. It can also deepen wounds. It is especially important for students to reach out to the many services and access critical resources when they experience additional stress.”
Faculty panelists included Jessica Frazier, Kathleen McIntyre, Kyle Kusz, Jody Lisberger, Eric Loomis and James Haile. After the short viewing of a clip from ‘Democracy Now’ that compared the hearings on Clarence Thomas to the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, the faculty began their statements.
The panelists commented on sexism, racism, discrimination and political affiliations. “I think what really needs to be emphasized here is not Donald Trump, is not Mitch Mcconnell and is not even Kavanaugh,” Loomis said. “It’s that millions of people are voting for Donald Trump because he makes them feel good about being sexist and racist. It’s a constant fight for dignity and power in this nation.”
Lisberger, in her statement, recalled the gathering held with the University of Rhode Island President David Dooley that took place on Monday, Oct. 1. She mentioned that at the event, she raised concerns about gender discrimination and its handling at URI. Though she declined to elaborate her concerns any further, she did say, “One of the things we have in any institution and definitely at URI, is the old mentality of an accused professional’s future being the most important thing because we never thought of the survivor as having a life or deserving a life. At URI, there is a lot of willingness not to adjudicate promptly and not to believe survivors.”
When the floor opened up for questions from the community, students came forward to make statements and begin discussions with the professors. Multiple students reflected on the extreme polarization currently felt in the United States. Sophomore Ben Wilkie asked, “What do we do to bridge this big divide on both sides?”
“Be more sensitive of people at the local level,” said Pisa. “There are a lot of people fighting the good fight. Get involved on campus, see what others are doing. Be engaged at URI.”
Students and faculty alike recognized the #MeToo movement and annual Women’s Marches as female-led movements of empowerment for those facing discrimination. One student reflected on her experiences incorporating men into the conversation.
“My male friends shrink back from gender conversations become they feel it’s not their place. I want them to speak up and wonder how I can encourage them to speak up and be better allies?”
“Talk to your male identifying friends about how they can use their privilege,” said Frazier. “If they believe in gender they should be able to speak up for others, and speak up on their own behalf.”
The event ended with a call to action for URI community members. “Stand up for what you think is right and let the chips fall where they may,” said Loomis.
Sophomore Hope Allen attended and was drawn to the event because of the topics and the diverse demographics present, “I think it offered a safe space for survivors and those who wanted to talk about this issue,” said Allen. “We need to start bridging the gap. We respond too much. We need to listen.”