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Student-organized Day of Action raises awareness for educational justice

In April, Clara Conover and Annika Kuretsky stood in the rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse for more than six hours, surrounded by hundreds of university students, faculty, staff and educational stakeholders to testify on the state’s Senate Bill 83 (S.B. 83).

More than 100 miles away in Oxford, Olivia Gallo stood outside Armstrong Student Center chanting “S.B. 83 bans my degree” and passing out flyers to inform those passing by.

The bill, which passed the Senate in May and is waiting to be heard in the House, would limit diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training, outline who can and cannot strike and prohibit professors from taking a stance on controversial subjects such as climate and foreign policy, electoral politics, immigration and abortion.

Now, these three Miami University students, with the help of others, are working together to inform the Miami community about higher education in state legislation.

“We saw all of this response to Senate Bill 83 at each campus, but it had nowhere else to go afterwards because it was so disconnected,” Conover said. “I know that was an issue at Miami’s campus where it was like, ‘Who’s doing what? I’m not sure.’”

The senior political science and geography and sustainable development double major met an organizer of the Ohio Student Activist Alliance (OSAA) at the statehouse in April and was asked to bring a chapter to Miami over the summer. At the same time, Gallo, who is involved with the Ohio Student Association, was asked to help develop the chapter as well.

“I think that they saw Miami was kind of a powerhouse with S.B. 83. Not a lot of other campuses were doing what we did, so I think they were pretty passionate about having Miami as one of these campuses participating,” said Gallo, a sophomore organizational leadership and social justice studies double major.

On Oct. 2, Miami will join the University of Cincinnati, Kent State University, Ohio University and the Ohio State University in participating in OSAA’s Day of Action.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., four tables will line the corners of Spring and Maple streets: one in front of the Sesquicentennial Chapel, one in front of the Shriver Center and two in front of Armstrong Student Center.

Each table will offer an outlet for activism or education concerning educational justice. One table will provide the opportunity to register to vote, another will allow students to register with OSAA to become a member, a different table will provide a platform for anyone who wants to speak about what they are passionate about, and the final table will host different student organizations to platform for their cause.

“When I got started with OSAA, the reason I was excited to get on board is that they want to create a power network of students that are ‘uncommon but good,’” Gallo said. “It’s the idea that even if you’re not a progressive activist … you are something that cares about changing something, and it’s connecting people who aren’t running in the same circles.”

Kuretsky, a senior social justice studies and sustainability double major, said the goal of the Day of Action event is to provide a space for students with similar passions to platform for their interests.

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“If you look at EcoReps, for example, or a million other environment-based organizations, those are activists,” Kuretsky said. “However, you don’t necessarily think of that when you’re thinking about social action. I think that there’s a lot to gain from connecting and networking with each other to forward the different things that people care about.”

Conover said the event is intended to be a holistic look at what students can do.

“Generally, the message is, ‘We are students, we care about things, this is our power together, look at this across the state,’” Conover said. “Because we have a very broad team of organizers on the issue, it's been really neat to see what everybody's doing on their campus.”

Day of Action will be a precursor to OSAA’s larger project: the Young People’s Platform, a survey that will be available to all Ohio college students to poll what students care about.

“That’s another reason why we chose to form this chapter of OSAA here because youth and student voices are a part of the electorate in the state of Ohio,” Kurtesky said. “If they’re not listening to us, if they don’t care to actually be there, even when they’re supposed to be officially listening, there’s a problem there.”

Although this is the first event OSAA is hosting, Conover said this is just the beginning.

“For us, [we’re] thinking about the event in terms of how can this power network for longer than just the moment,” Conover said. “[We want to] create the movement rather than the moment.”