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Survivors Belong Here

Each year, WLRC recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month through programs and events that are intended to provide education about sexual violence and sexual assault, along with other forms of gender-based violence. The small but mighty staff of the Campus Advocacy Network (CAN) program typically lead this work. This year was no different. At the suggestion and with the leadership of one of our graduate assistants, Candice Gary, the staff decided to launch a version of The Clothesline Project. A familiar sight on many college campuses in the early 00s, clothesline strung between campus buildings feature t-shirts and other articles of clothing that bear messages of healing, rage, and hope, and testify to survivors’ determination to reclaim their lives. Typically a one-day or one-week event, CAN staff (including our DCEP interns, Susan Cisneros and Omar Limias Villa) decided to put a more ambitious spin on things. Under the theme of “Survivors Belong Here,” programming was spread throughout the spring semester, with the intention of engaging various communities in conversations around what it means to be a survivor, and to use artmaking to bear witness. Campus Housing, Disability Cultural Center, Equity in Engineering Programs, Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, and African American Cultural Center were the anchors for the program and made it enormously successful. Space was created for university staff to contribute t-shirts and messages to the event. The t-shirts were on exhibition in the East Terrace of Student Center East during the first week of April. Thanks to David Ramirez, the building manager of the Student Services Building at 1200 W. Harrison, the t-shirts are currently on display in the building through the end of April. If you have walked into the building recently, you can’t help but see them. Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have left messages of support and encouragement and told us what the display means to you. We are taking it all in and continue to welcome your feedback as we work to make UIC a more survivor-centered campus.

As part of Arab American Heritage Month at UIC, the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy’s report on Arab Americans in Chicagoland was presented to the campus community earlier this month by a group of UIC faculty and administrators: Jennifer BrierNadine NaberZeina ZaatariNicole Nguyen, and Andy Clarno. Led by Professor Nadine Naber, the document is the outcome of deep collaboration with community organizations like the Arab American Family Services, and is a sobering read about the myriad ways that Arab Americans experience racism and marginalization. I urge everyone to read it. For us at UIC, the report gives particular insight into how Arab American students are being treated unfairly as they navigate academic institutions, and how political events concerning Israel and the wider Middle East shape students’ everyday experiences right here on campus. The University of Illinois recently authorized a new category which employees can use to identify their racial/ethnic background. A new bill has also been introduced in the Illinois legislature; if passed, it would authorize the state of Illinois to collect data that would help to inform public policy as it affects Arab Americans. Certainly, all of this necessary work is part of a larger campaign to bring attention to the ways that Arab Americans are subjected to racialization and denied full participation in the society. We know that the university is not immune to these practices; our students are testifying to such. We can do so better.

‘Tis the season of celebrating our students’ accomplishments! I hope that your plans include attending any of the wonderful events taking place: AAAN’s SoireeGSC’s Lavender GraduationArab American Cultural Center’s HaflahGWS’s End of Year Awards Celebration, or GLASapalooza.

As we make our way to the end of another very full academic year, let’s remember to take care of ourselves and each other,

Natalie Bennett