By Raye Weigel
“You can pick us off one by one, but when we’re united you can’t do anything about it,” said Samad Hussein, senior economics major and president of the Muslim Students Association, at a meeting to create a coalition of groups at this university to unite and address social justice issues on campus and beyond.
Almost 40 students from various groups on campus, such as the Muslim Students Association, Greek life and PLUMAS, gathered to discuss creating a coalition of student groups to unite students from different backgrounds and identities.
Though it sounds ideal, some students were skeptical.
Oliver Owens, senior sociology major, is involved in the Student Labor Action Project and Students for Justice in Palestine. He was part of a coalition similar to this one two years ago loosely based on the Black Lives Matter movement. It fell apart slowly and existed for a while only as a group chat that eventually fizzled out.
“I’m a little cynical at this point,” he said. He also expressed concern the coalition would not embrace conflict enough: “I don’t think we should be shying away from the word ‘demands;’ I think that’s important.”
The leaders seemed hopeful, however, that this coalition would be different than those in the past. If the organization succeeds, it will operate by bringing together representatives from each student group that is involved and discuss demands once a month.
The meeting was purely introductory and focused on brainstorming where the students who attended could discuss concerns and visions for what the group could look like. Some students wondered how so many groups with different focuses would be able to decide on collective action to take.
Several students seemed to agree undocumented immigrants are a group the coalition would need to focus on due to views proliferated in the recent election.
The concrete goals enumerated were: to send out an email at the beginning of each week with a list of emails students on the listserv could contact to get coffee with, have political conversations with and the like. In this email, they also would like to include a list of the events each organization is hosting each week so others can come out both to learn and show solidarity.
Along with the goal of making friends and helping fellow Terps feel safe, the students emphasized they wanted to establish the coalition as an SGA recognized and funded group so they could be taken seriously and be able to move forward and make demands from the school if need be.
Hussein emphasized the importance of the coalition being official because it would make it more likely to last beyond just this year. As a senior, he wants it to outlast his time at this university and become something student leaders can nurture and benefit from for years to come.
“I don’t want this to be all about Trump,” Hussein said. However, “when one group is taking a fall, we stand behind them.”
The meeting ended with students writing their concerns on large white boards. They listed their concerns such as:
Making this university a “sanctuary campus — protect ALL students’ human right to an education”
“Increased funding for Nyumburu [Cultural Center]”
Both doubt and excitement rippled through the room as students began to file out at the end of the meeting.
Cameryn Cole, freshman public health major, said she will be keeping up with the group for now.
“One of the most dire concerns right now is the safety of undocumented students,” she said. Cole remains hopeful the coalition will flourish.
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of The Rival UMD on Facebook.
Raye Weigel is a sophomore multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.