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New campus tour highlights history of social justice

December 18, 2014

  • Photo by Jessika Chi.
  • Photo by Jessika Chi.
  • Photo by Jessika Chi.

By Lacey Jacoby ’16

“Dear friends, picture yourself back at Lewis & Clark. What comes to mind? Punching out papers on manual typewriters? Vietnam War protests taking over the Manor House?”

These words come from a flier for the Class of 1974 40th reunion, and while the manual typewriters may be gone, Lewis & Clark’s emphasis on social justice remains.

To teach the Lewis & Clark community about its history of engagement with social justice, the Department of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) has created a tour that highlights events in the college’s past.

Inspired by an alternative tour at Stanford University, Director of IME Cathy Busha and IME Program Manager Jessika Chi had the idea for a social justice tour. Karissa Tom ’16 and Julia Withers ’16, program coordinators for IME, then created the tour by conducting historical research and developing a mission.

Tom, who also works as an admissions ambassador, was excited to combine her passions for campus tours and social justice. According to her, the social justice tours aim “to encourage current Lewis & Clark students to feel a connection to the college’s history.”

She also hopes it will “inspire current students to act on their passions and to make a change or stand up for what [they] believe in.”

The tour, which is organized geographically, focuses on Lewis & Clark’s history of student activism and civil rights demonstrations. Highlights include “three student occupations of the Manor House, two of which concerned the Vietnam war and one of which concerned complete divestment from companies that were associated with apartheid in South Africa,” Tom said. As she points out, all of the demonstrations, events, and speakers addressed in the tour were initiated “by undergraduate students just like us, so what’s stopping us from acting?”

The events in the social justice tour span from the 1950s up until a few weeks ago. Tom hopes that including more recent events will help students see a modern connection and understand the college’s continuing role in promoting social justice. The tour also looks at statues on campus, examining the significance of both structure and the individuals represented.

IME gave the first social justice tour during the Lead Explore Achieve Discover Program, altering it slightly to better accommodate prospective students. The first social justice tours aimed at Lewis & Clark and the surrounding community—students, alumni, neighbors, faculty, and staff—took place in late November. The next tours are expected to take place during the Martin Luther King Jr. week of events.

Although Tom and Withers will study abroad during the spring, other students can volunteer as tour guides by contacting IME at Tom has also shared the tour information with students working at the admissions office and hopes they will incorporate the information into tours for prospective students.

Ultimately, Tom hopes the social justice tours will “inspire critical thought about the way that we move in college and the way that we see ourselves as students of Lewis & Clark.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Pioneer Log.

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