Nearly 100 Rutgers students and members of the New Brunswick community participated in a teach-in at Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus in honor of International Women's Day.
The “Day Without a Woman: Walk-out to Teach-in” was meant to educate people about different issues on International Women’s Day, said Laurent Reyes, a student in the Graduate School of Social Work. Many of these issues stem from policies or statements made by President Donald J. Trump’s administration.
Attendees were split into several small groups to discuss various issues, including civic engagement, race and power, reproductive health rights, "mansplaining" and lobbying, she said. Reyes was one of two organizers of Wednesday’s event.
“The goal was to bring people together outside to (talk about) different topics surrounding policies put forward by the administration,” she said. “The idea is to have the most amount of people but have small groups for them instead of one big group because you can’t organize that way. Smaller groups felt more conducive to this kind of learning action.”
By splitting the participants up into smaller groups, several conversations were facilitated, said Stephanie Mischell, the other event organizer.
The Robert Wood Johnson Medical School student said she was happy she was able to speak with people from different backgrounds about social issues.
“It was really all about reaching out across this diverse disparate community and bringing them together, just finding people where they were,” Mischell said. “It was nice having the freedom to talk about these issues and we could move from topic to topic, we were able to share the things that we know.”
Each sub-conversation also covered a variety of perspectives, she said. The reproductive health group, which she participated in, talked not only about how to lobby their government representatives and advocate for better healthcare, but also how to talk to friends and family about the issue.
Both topics are different but equally important to a discussion about reproductive health, she said.
Every conversation was designed around modifying everyday life, Reyes said.
“We designed a guide for the facilitators, so there’s three parts,” Reyes said. “They talk about the topic, then they have a discussion (and) then there’s an action. Each group will decide their action and what they want to do to keep engaging (with) the topic.”
Douglass Residential College’s Acting Director of Knowledge & Power and the Barbara Voorhees Mentor Program Jeremy LaMaster facilitated a conversation on "mansplaining" and “bro-culture” during his teach-in.
He said he wanted to choose a topic which is small enough to be able to have a conversation about during the teach-in but still impactful enough to be part of the dialogue.
“I’m glad to see that both men and women are here to participate in the conversation because I think it’s good to get both perspectives – as a woman how do you counteract these behaviors of 'mansplaining' and as a man how can you be an ally to women facing these issues,” LaMaster said.
Facilitating conversations is important to raising awareness of issues, he said.
“I think one of the big things is bringing people together, showing them they’re not alone and giving them the space to actually talk about these issues, which students, faculty and staff may not engage with in their day to day lives,” LaMaster said. “Whether it be in their workplaces or in the classroom with their peers, it’s kind of setting aside some space to talk about these issues.”
Mischell said she hoped people would take what they learned from the conversations and bring them into their everyday life.
The teach-ins are only one part of a larger movement resisting Trump’s policies and actions, Reyes said.
“I think that’s the most important thing – that this is in solidarity with everything that’s going on in the world today,” she said. “Maybe it won’t change (the administration’s) mind but sends a message of resistance and discontent … and we’re going to keep fighting.”
People should continue to engage in upcoming protests to make sure their voices are at least heard, she said.
“I think we just need to keep the movement going, and the momentum and stay active, educated and aware and be ready to continue protesting, rallying (and) attending teach-ins because it’s not going to end today. This is our reality and we should keep doing this,” Reyes said. “I’m very excited, people are engaged, there’s momentum. There’s a lot more to be done but this is just the beginning.”
Nikhilesh De is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. He is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.