Friday, September 21, 2012

‘Trail’ leads students to chocolate

Open house encourages social justice conversations, education

By Ashley Gill, Guest Writer

    An estimated 75 students abandoned the sidewalks of campus last Thursday and traveled the annual Chocolate Trail instead.

    For the second year in a row the Women’s Center and Diversity Center held a joint open house called “Follow the Chocolate Trail.” From 3-5 p.m. on Sept. 13, students went back and forth between the Diversity Center and Women’s Center answering trivia, playing games and eating chocolate.

    Students dipped marshmallows, drenched strawberries and layered Graham crackers with chocolate from overflowing fountains.

    Students simultaneously were able to see how the Diversity Center and Women’s Center work together for similar goals.

 “I think the most important part of this, the Chocolate Trail, for me, is bringing together everybody,” sophomore Mckenzie Sumpter said. “It’s bringing together all types of people from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, groups, to enjoy a common thing like chocolate.”

    Open houses have been an annual event since the Women’s Center opened 23 years ago, and the Diversity Center was introduced to campus 11 years ago. These events present the centers as welcoming environments for all students, notify students of upcoming events and introduce the staff.

    “It’s not just about diversity, it’s not just about women,” sophomore Nicole Jordan said. “It’s about building a community in PLU and providing a resource for the students, a safe place and just support for everyone.”

    Since the Diversity Center and Women’s Center both publicize that they work toward social justice, Jennifer Smith, director of the Women’s Center, and Angie Hambrick, director of the Diversity Center, decided during fall 2011 to connect the two centers to highlight that mutual goal.

    Follow the Chocolate Trail is a “good time to think about issues of social justice, equity, diversity and sustainability,” Smith said.

 “Chocolate is an easy way to draw people into that,” Smith added.

    Connecting the open houses allows students to understand resources available at both centers and how they mutually promote social justice education. A goal of the open house is for the centers to be viewed as not only informational, but also safe places to relax, volunteer and meet new people.

    Hambrick, director of the Diversity Center for seven years said, “We see ourselves in partnership with other places on campus, like the Women’s Center, as being one of many hubs where these types of dialogs and conversations can happen.”

    The Diversity Center and the Women’s Center collaborate on a series of retreats including the Students of Color retreat on Sept. 21-22, the Women’s retreat Oct. 5 and 6, Men’s retreat on Oct. 6, the Queer Student retreat Oct. 13, and a Coalition retreat on Oct. 27, which brings together all four groups of students from previous retreats.

    The Diversity and Women’s Centers also work together to put on the Sex+ series along with Lute Fit and the Health Center.

    The first event is Oct. 1 and will address the topic of fetishes.

    The two centers also bring authors, documentaries, workshops and other events to campus throughout the year.