'Social justice fest' promotes sex work advocacy, boycotting Wendy's

Brandeis University will host a week-long series of social justice events, including ones led by “advocates for sex workers” and ones informing students how they can support a boycott of Wendy’s. 

The “DEIS IMPACT Festival of Social Justice,” run by Brandeis’ Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), starts Sunday and continues through Feb. 9. It consists of dozens of individual events with social justice themes.

Campus Reform spoke with ODEI representative Jonathan Kroll about the Massachusetts school’s function.

Kroll explained that the festival has occurred annually for the past seven years, but that 2019 marks the first festival run by the ODEI. There are over 50 events during the week and each event is organized, funded, and run by individual groups on campus: departments, faculty members, student clubs, etc. The 2019 theme is “What is Social Justice?: Consciously Exploring Oppression, Power, and Privilege in our Communities.”

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The ODEI representative further explained that campus groups that seek to run an event during the festival must apply to an “IMPACTers” committee that decides which applications will be approved.

Some of the events include: “Rights Not Rescue: A Workshop and Panel on Sex Workers’ Rights,” “Boycott Wendy’s: Why & How,” “Phyllis Bennis Speaks: The Marginalization Of Gaza And The West Bank,” and “Reading God and Torah From a Transgender Perspective: A Talk with Joy Ladin.”

The sex workers event will be led by “advocates for sex worker rights.” The event description states that they will “lead a workshop where participants will learn to confront the stigma surrounding sex work, how to advocate for sex workers on and off campus, and about why it is important to center sex worker voices in the debate surrounding their rights and profession.”

”Through this event, students can hear from activists working for the support and destigmatization of sex work and understand why centering the voices of sex workers is far more important than delegitimizing and criminalizing their work,” the description adds. 

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Another event focuses on the boycott of the popular fast food chain Wendys and how Brandeis students can support the boycott. 

”Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization made up of farmworkers that fights for fair and ethically grown food as well as the rights of farmworkers, will be coming to speak about the current Boycott on Wendy’s: why it’s happening and how the Brandeis and Waltham communities can support it,” the event description states.

Asked about the possibility for extra credit, Kroll stated that he did not have the relevant information, but that each department would decide separately, that he believed some departments were awarding it, and that the heads of the ODEI “hope they encourage departments to do so.”

Kroll also added that as a part of the festival, Brandeis’ DEIS IMPACT serves as the parent organization to DEIS IMPACT College, which will provide ten social justice classes during the semester.

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In addition to the semester-long class, the festival also has an event to encourage students to pursue careers after college that contain an element of social justice. That section, titled “Exploring Social Justice in the Brandeis Classroom and Beyond: Courses, Internships, and Careers,” is designed to “raise awareness and spark discussion about the variety of paths within Brandeis and beyond for students to explore and pursue their interest in social justice.” 

”Importantly,” the description adds, “it is designed to help students think more critically about addressing oppression, power, and privilege into aspects of academic life at Brandeis as well as beyond, even if their major/internship/etc. is not obviously tied to social justice.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mstein81