FSU activists work toward social change

Florida State University students are well versed on issues ranging from the possible war with Iraq to the death penalty to how student government is allocating money.

They listen to National Public Radio, write anti-oppression letters to governments and protest major institutions. They are members of what they call progressive or radical organizations. Several of these groups are conducting workshops on political, cultural and sexual issues. The workshops are part of the campus’s first Radical Rush, which is open to the public. The students got the idea from the University of Florida and University of Central Florida, which also hold Radical Rush.

“Ours is an event to educate the public about issues they may not know,” said Kelly Bohlander, director of the Center for Participant Education, which offers a variety of free classes to the public.

The CPE agency, one of the oldest campus organizations, often co-sponsors events with other progressive organizations because it receives more money from the student government, said Rachelle Rohrer, assistant director of CPE.

These organizations are for people who want to change the status quo in their community and the world, students said. Student Jonathan Luna describes a progressive organization as “a group whose aim is to make social change for some group or the greater public.”

He added the organizations are “for those individuals who feel disenfranchised by what goes on on campus.” The organizations attract a diverse group of people and have no dress codes, fees or interviews, Bohlander said. Many students participate in more than one progressive organization.

NORML, the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, is to hold a workshop about First and Fourth Amendment rights. It will include information on situations such as how to handle being pulled over by the police.

“A lot of students are fresh out of the house, and it’s the first time they’re really independent,” Luna said. “They’re not really educated on the community and their rights.”

VOX, Voices of Planned Parenthood, will do a workshop on sexuality, which will include information on anal sex. Information like this will be valuable for both the straight and gay communities, Rohrer said.

“Other groups have programs for heterosexuals. We wanted to be more diverse,” she said. Students said it’s just a coincidence that the week falls at the same time as the Greek rush week. “We’re not trying to reject or disparage what they’re doing,” Rohrer said. “It’s just an alternative.”

The groups recently expanded their work with the community by taking part in monthly roundtable discussions of progressive groups from FAMU, FSU, TCC and the community. It’s an opportunity to network and combine resources, Rohrer said.

She said the progressive organizations are like family. “All groups are very inclusive, very open,” Rohrer said. “It’s a close-knit group.”