Over the summer, a couple of students from UW Tacoma started its own chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The American Civil Liberties Union — or ACLU — is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the United States. They advocate for the defense of human rights, the empowerment of communities across the United States and they influence public policy. Current national issues they are taking on include mass incarceration, immigration and religious discrimination.
The UWT ACLU chapter is especially focused on social justice issues, such as environmental justice, LGBTQ+ issues, the Chinese concentration camps, free speech panels and Women’s rights. UWT ACLU Chapter meets on campus every Monday from 11 a.m –12 p.m. in CP 303.
There are 29 ethnically, politically, and culturally diverse members in the club, including Adriana Vega, one of the club’s secretaries. Vega, a biomed student, joined the club in hopes of making change within the community and outside her major.
“When you’re so passionate about something, it’s hard to see people who don’t really care…I would love to see this club makes a difference on campus,” said Vega.
Vega hopes future events on campus will be noticed by people passing by and even hopes to get the UWT ACLU Chapter to go to the next Women’s march in Seattle, as well as advocating for an on-campus conference to be hosted to spread awareness for women’s rights.
With 10 officers and 19 committee members, the UWT ACLU Chapter holds many different voices with many different reasons why they joined. Rebecca Pirkle, a committee member and a computer science and technology major, shared why she initially joined ACLU.
“You see the positive impact and I wanted to help in any big or small impact I could,” said Pirkle.
The campus chapter has worked with other campus organizations, such as the Center for Equity and Inclusion, Center for Service and Leadership and ASUWT City Liaison Sean Arent. Eventually, the club wants to work with Legal Pathways, a new initiative on campus to connect with students interested in pursuing a law degree. At the same time, state and city legislation has expressed interest in working with the UWT ACLU Chapter.
The Chapter will host many events this academic year, and has already produced some smaller ones. They hosted the National Coming Out Day celebration in CP 108 on Friday, October 11 from 12:30 to 1:20 p.m. At this event, they held a lunch for everyone — LGBTQ+ community members, allies and friends — to come and celebrate the community. The event allowed students to share their stories and celebrate gender, identity and expression with pride.
Committee member Robyn Levin founded the idea of the event, and worked hard with the officers to create a safe zone for all identities and asexualities outside of the Registered Student Organization as well.
“(I) really want a safe place for students who are questioning sexuality and genders where they can ask questions and get answers,” said Levin.
In November, the UWT ACLU Chapter is teaming up with the CEI and the Gender Alliance of the South Sound to host Trans Day of Remembrance, which will be held for the second time at UWT. Numerous outside organizations — such as Planned Parenthood, Rebuidling Hope Sexual Assault Center and Community Health — will come and table at the resource fair, providing resources to share to the Trans community. After the tabling event, there will be a vigil to remember those killed due to transphobia.
Keynote speakers for the event include Executive Director of the Rainbow Center, J. Manny Santiago, Councilman Ryan Mello on behalf of Mayor Woodards, and Dr. Jimmy McCarthy, Director for the CEI. TDOR happens Nov. 20 — the resource fair from 4–5:30 p.m. in the Cherry Parks lobby, and the vigil from 6-8 p.m. in Jane Russel Commons.
The national ACLU website features an area for people to send thoughts and comments on various topics, such as refugees being welcomed into America and reparations for slavery. Each topic has a comment bar that sends your thoughts directly to a coordinator who reads it, such as a U.S. senator. Other topics simply have petitions that you can add your name to by following a link. On the site, they provide a place to learn what rights individuals have, how to use them and what to do when those rights are violated.