The Next Step: A Retreat to Discuss Social Justice Issues

Fifty-three students from across the campus gathered last weekend for a retreat designed to foster a sense of community and cultural awareness as well as to promote ideals of respect and acceptance. The retreat, entitled “The Next Step: Students Sharing in a Social Justice Journey” attempted to collectively examine issues of culture, privilege, and oppression, as well as social justice. A group of eight staff and faculty members led the retreat, which was located at Aloha Foundation’s Hulbert Outdoor Center. The retreat was financially supported by donations from a variety offices and organizations across campus The Next Step retreat was the brainchild of Grant Anderson and Tim Shiner, both former affiliates of Colorado State University who had participated in a similar event and were impressed by the impact on the participants. Shiner, explains the significance of this type of communal dialogue, “It is difficult for people to see outside what they have been taught, outside their own experiences. We believe that by hearing other people’s life stories, we gain a fuller picture of the world…” College students across the country share similar experiences as administrators acknowledge a growing problem of intolerance on campuses. Similar retreats are now happening at the University of Delaware and the University of California, Santa Cruz. One of the greatest pitfalls with diversity education is that “students feel as if they are being talked at, rather than being talked to,” according to Anderson, and this retreat provided an platform to avoid this error. The weekend agenda was based off the schedule of activities performed by the retreat members at Colorado State University, yet was tailored to meet UVM’s unique needs, including many situations to “facilitate storytelling,” according to Anderson. Anderson and Shiner would like the retreat to become a yearly event. Read the mission statement below and see whether the Next Step retreat is something that you would benefit from participating. The mission statement for the retreat as found on the Center for Cultural Pluralism website is as follows: “Based on all the teachings which I hold true, I accept the following: It is in my own best interest to help create a world of compassion, justice, and equity for all people. It is my personal responsibility to work toward a campus and greater community which foster mutual respect and a safe environment for all human beings. I therefore commit to continuously educate myself and actively work toward these goals in my daily life and with others.”