Student Senate to take 20 students on its Social Justice Retreat

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Pacific University Undergraduate Student Senate (USS) will be taking students to Cedar Ridge Conference Center in Vernonia, Ore. for the annual Social Justice Retreat.

The four day retreat will be held from January 24-27 and will help students build the capacity to do social justice work on and off campus, according to Assistant Director of Student Activities Pete Erschen.

“We want to see where there is work to be done and build the knowledge and skill we need to do that work,” Erschen said. “When talking about social justice work, that might mean being able to see discrepancies or inequity in power among programs on campus, and then having the skills to speak up on that and create change.”

On the first day, students will begin an intersecting identities workshop, which includes creating models of their identities, with regard to the various groups to which they belong. On day two, students will be taught about the role of privilege and how it plays out in society. This includes guided discussions and visualizing activities to help students understand the influence of privilege and oppression in their experiences.

The next two days include allies and actions activities, which will teach students how to become allies with one another and support others in positive ways. Students will participate in feedback activities to recognize and honor their contributions to the weekend on the final day.

“We want to develop a lot of interpersonal relationship skills, such as engaging in difficult conversations,” Erschen said. “We will be working on things like creating an understanding of structures of power and privilege around dimensions of human identity, as well as how to intervene as a bystander.”

The USS is not the only organization involved in the Social Justice Retreat. Each year there are different faculty members who go on the retreat to help out as well.

“It has always been a different collective of faculty and staff members,” Erschen said. “Mostly staff members from the student life division and faculty from the social sciences division. We’ve had staff
members from Alumni Affairs, Center for Civic Engagement, Center for Sustainable Society and the list goes on from there.”

This year’s Social Justice Retreat marks the fourth year in which students have participated and the USS is hoping to continue providing students this opportunity each year.

“It’s open to any students who are interested,” Erschen said. “We have an application period for students to apply, but we usually end up taking everyone who applies.”


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