Students push us to walk the talk

Featured / February 5, 2016
By Beth Kraig, Professor of History

Joining the PLU community in 1989 as a visiting assistant professor in the History Department, I could see many signs of change already in place. Like any institution, PLU reflected the voices and experiences and dreams of those individuals whose lives intersected with the campus. The students who joined PLU in the late 1980s and 1990s were especially important visionaries, bringing with them the strong belief that the activists of the 1960s and 1970s had set the stage for more action, more fairness, and much more dialogue. Student leaders in the 1990s (and then the 2000s) jumped onto that stage with great energy and a powerful desire to push PLU into a higher gear when it came to the pursuit of justice.

Above all, these students made very healthy contributions to our community’s willingness to track its own shortcomings and reduce the gap between our ‘talk” and our “walk.” As the renowned activist, scholar, and theologian Cornel West argued (also in the early 1990s) we must work hard to discern our own hypocrisies if we want to pursue justice and bring about productive change.
We must work hard to discern our own hypocrisies if we want to pursue justice and bring about productive change.

Locate and challenge the weaknesses, embrace the likelihood that things could be much better than they are, and call out loudly the difference between a rhetoric of inclusiveness and a reality of subtle to blatant exclusion.

(Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)Beth Kraig's class working with students at Lincoln HS studying racism on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.+Enlarge Photo
I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with a number of the student leaders of vital groups like B.L.A.C.K. @ PLU, Harmony, Puentes, and their subsequent incarnations. I’ve learned that student leaders can do a lot, but alumni leaders also have tremendous power and can join current student activists as valuable allies and advocates. Each group of new students brings new ideas and helps us truly see that we can (and we must) do better. If you are a new (or older) alum, please do what you can to insure that we keep pushing the pace of change at PLU.

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