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Transgender Rights Activists shout chants in front of the Athens Courthouse during a boycott protest of Artifacts Gallery on January 21, 2023.

OU students reflect on World Social Justice Day

On Nov. 26, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared Feb. 20 as World Social Justice Day. The day was meant to honor efforts to reduce unemployment and stand against social exclusion and poverty. The UN General Assembly also wanted to recognize the importance of social development, peace and security.

Social justice looks different everywhere. In a small town like Athens, where Ohio University students and residents intermingle, it can come in the form of attending city council meetings, boycotting a business or even just doing something kind for a stranger.

Liv Lauvray, a junior studying journalism, discussed how OU’s party school reputation can help bring students together and provide opportunities to help those in need.

“Everyone has solidarity … they have each other's backs,” Lauvray said. “If you see someone drunk on a sidewalk, and it's cold out, you're going to try to pick them up and figure out where they're at and not leave them out in the freezing cold to maybe get hypothermia.”

Lauvray also emphasized the importance of women on campus standing with each other, especially at parties where someone may be at risk of getting their drink spiked.

“Female solidarity on a college campus is watching out for a man putting a pill in your drink or anything like that,” she said. “If you see anything sketchy, you should know that the people at your college have your back.”

Joey Hilliard, a junior studying astrophysics, acknowledged the importance of staying educated on current events while also standing up for impactful issues in all settings.

“Social justice means being aware of social issues in our society and not being afraid to speak out,” Hilliard said. “Whether in huge public environments or just with the people closest to you.”

In the modern age of social media, activism has a lot of different forms. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in June 2023, 26% of social media users said they used their social media accounts to encourage others to take action in the last year.

However, social media activism is not the end-all-be-all for students, Hannah Boyers said. Boyers, a senior studying acting, said going beyond the digital world is necessary for meaningful social change.

“I do think clicking buttons and sharing links is important, but I also do believe that it is more than that,” Boyers said. “Spreading awareness is important, but action also needs to happen. Whether it's donating or calling representatives or whatever.”

The long history of social justice movements has a pattern of being led by youth activists. From the 1960s Civil Rights movement to modern protests in support of Black Lives Matter and gun control, young adults have often been on the front lines of protests.

Despite this, many students can sometimes be dissatisfied with their educational institution’s social justice records. Hilliard discussed how support for social justice by the OU Administration often feels hollow in comparison to individual efforts by other Bobcats.

“If students have a passion to hold a protest or something, there's not a lot of examples I can see where they would not allow that,” Hilliard said. “I don’t know that the university itself takes a lot of opportunities to be vocal itself. I think it mostly, if anything, will just prop up other voices.”


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