Social group intends to educate students

Leah Brown

A recent issue on Columbia University’s campus has grabbed the attention of a WKU student group.

Bowling Green junior Kate McElroy said beginning in September, Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia senior, has been carrying her dorm mattress to symbolize the burden she carries from her rape.

Next semester, the WKU Coalition for Social Justice will mimic Sulkowicz’s actions on campus with a “Carry That Weight” demonstration where students can sign their name on a mattress to raise awareness for sexual assault.

This is only one of many issues the coalition wishes to bring awareness to and education on. 

McElroy began working at the Institute for Citizenship & Social Responsibility in the fall of 2012. This gave her the inspiration to create a student group that represents the same issues the ICSR covers.

The student-led group was established on Oct. 1 by McElroy with the help of other students and friends, such as Bowling Green junior Aeryn Darst. It aims to educate and encourage activism for social justice.

“We would like to expand opportunities for students to be active,” Darst said.

ICSR Director Judy Rohrer, the coalition’s faculty advisor, has an extensive background in nonprofit organizing and activism dealing with feminism, disability, decolonization and anti-militarism issues.

Because of her history in activism, Rohrer has many connections at several institutions, such as the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University, and is able to provide the group with models for student activism.

The coalition has about 43 members on Facebook, but only around 10 to 15 members are heavily involved, McElroy said. 

The group has done letter-writing campaigns to help the passage of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act in Bowling Green to support the Student Coalition for Renter’s Rights in November. 

It also plans to help Title IX Coordinator Huda Melky create a video that educates students about sexual assault and harassment.

“This semester we have been focusing pretty heavily on sexual harassment issues,” McElroy said.

McElroy said the WKU CSJ has received great feedback from Melky, as well as other student coalitions on campus, such as the Student Coalition for Renters’ Rights.

McElroy said the group is personal to her and many of her friends have experienced social problems on a personal level.

“I can’t pick an issue that doesn’t mean something personal to me,” McElroy said. “So that’s the struggle as where to focus our efforts next.”