3rd annual Social Justice Week aims to raise awareness

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

Social Justice Week, a plethora of events designed to raise awareness of social issues such as race, gender, mental health, privilege and more is currently underway at Appalachian State University.

The events, which are being held for the third consecutive year, are a collaboration of various student clubs and organizations. The collective group of events started March 23 and will end March 28.

“[There are] fundraisers, documentary screenings, concerts, trainings and much more, so everyone can find something they’re interested in,” said Cassie Tesseneer, a sophomore social work major and Student Association of Social Workers officer.

Patrick Long, a junior psychology major who serves as the outreach chair for the week, said the event was created to give more attention to issues that are usually overlooked on campus.

“In the past, a lot of organizations have had a hard time getting attendance at their events that are social justice or diversity themed,” Long said. “Up until recently, social justice hasn’t been something that our students have cared about. We decided to form a collaboration of groups to bring these issues to the forefront.”

This year’s Social Justice Week includes events by numerous first time participants, including the Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program and Outdoor Programs.

One of the week’s events will be a panel on mental health, which is being hosted by the Student Association of Social Workers, National Alliance on Mental Illness and YesPlus.

Tesseneer said she believes the tragedies that have occurred on campus this year make mental health a more pressing issue.

“We wanted to create a safe space for students to discuss their concerns, ask questions, and learn about resources in the community,” Tesseneer said.

Another event held was a panel called Breaking the Silence, which addressed the problems of sexual assault and abusive relationships. The panel consisted of students who have suffered experiences of sexual assault or other forms of abuse.

Amelia Thomas, a junior sociology major, said Breaking the Silence shed a more personal light on the issue.

“The goal is to start a discussion that’s not as clinical,” Thomas said. “We usually throw around statistics and definitions, but we don’t really talk about what it’s really like.”

A canned food drive will also take place throughout the week, and people will have the opportunity to donate canned food at any of the scheduled events. The proceeds from the drive will go to Hospitality House, a local nonprofit crisis agency and homeless shelter.

“The thing about social justice is that it’s education, but there’s also an activism part of it,” Long said. “The goal is to say at the end of the week that we not only educated the public, but did something for a local nonprofit.”

Tesseneer said the week not only educates students, but is also aimed at helping them get involved.

“While planning our event, I learned about a lot of community resources and some really great people with the same interests and passions as me,” Tesseneer said. “It’s just a great to connect with others in the community and get involved.”

Story: Tommy Culkin, News Reporter