WKU fights to help spread solidarity

Miles Schroader

In response to present tensions between different cultures and social groups, one organization started a movement. WKU’s Intercultural Student Engagement Center started a campaign during November to promote solidarity among students.

ISEC’s mission is to assist WKU with the recruitment, retention and graduation of underrepresented students, according to the group’s website. Some events ISEC has hosted in the past include a ‘Unity Walk’ where speakers shared their views on coming together as people, a ‘Social Justice Painting’ session and a ‘Preparing for Finals’ session.

The campaign encouraged WKU students, faculty and community members to wear red socks and/or red shoes in honor of the Hilltoppers’ prominent color for the remaining Tuesdays and Fridays of November.

The campaign is titled “Peace, Love and Sole,” with the goal being to demonstrate a common interest in connecting, practicing civility and treating those within the WKU community with a spirit of compassion and care, according to a Facebook post created by ISEC in early November.

Martha Sales, ISEC executive director, explained that the idea began to bubble in late September, when she and her coworkers were challenged to bring forward an idea that would bring unity among the community.

“I want us to be unified on something, even if it’s something as simple as socks and shoes,” Sales said. “We spend so much time focusing on things that divide us, so I thought our office could do an initiative that would be something that would bring us together.”

Sales said the reason ISEC chose to spread its message through socks and shoes is to show people that “no matter what you have going on, we all are walking through something, but this is a time where we can all identify with one another.”

The movement garnered participants across campus, including President Gary Ransdell. On Nov. 18, Ransdell tweeted a photo with himself wearing red socks with a caption supporting his stance on solidarity.

“I personally felt like I needed to get involved because I am an international student and of a different race,” said Omolewa Oyekola, a junior from Lagos, Nigeria. “I wanted to get to know about other people’s cultures.”

WKU junior Blake Bowden of Stone Mountain, Georgia, felt it was necessary to get involved with the campaign from the start.

“I joined just to show people that they’re not alone; solidarity is a pretty big thing,” Bowden said. “This is something small that we can do to show people ‘hey, we’re together.’”

Bowden addressed the election results protests at Pearce-Ford Tower as a time where he felt people weren’t addressing their concerns in a proper manner.

“People have to learn that we agree and disagree,” Bowden said. “Too often, people take offense when you disagree with them, and that’s just life. Not everyone is going to see things the way you do.”

Bowden said he thinks the root of a lot of misunderstanding and hatred is simply ignorance.

“Take the time to actually research other cultures, so you can understand maybe why people feel the way they do,” Bowden said. “That way you can build empathy instead of tearing something down that you just don’t see.”

To promote understanding, Sales recommended coming to the ISEC office and communicating with people and getting to know different cultures.

“There is no dumb question when it comes to cultural relationships if you want to grow,” Sales said.

Reporter Miles Schroader can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected].