Students have officially founded UCSB’s first Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) club, which held its first meeting to discuss social justice and civil rights at the Goleta Valley Conference Room last Wednesday.
SPLC is a national organization focusing on a three-pronged strategy to tackle racial and social injustice by fighting hate, teaching tolerance and finding justice. The UCSB club will seek to meet these objectives through educational initiatives, advocacy and collaboration with existing groups which share similar concerns. The club’s specific plans are to have police sensitivity training, create a coalition with other activist groups and host a “Know Your Rights” event.
SPLC Advisor and UCSB professor of classics Rose MacLean said the goals of the club are to combat hate, promote positive change, and protect civil rights by focusing on the legal details.
“It is essential that members of the community know their rights and have access to quality legal advice and representation,” MacLean said in an email.
Club President third-year environmental studies and French double major Sebastianne Kent said the university needs clubs that fight hate groups, and that she encourages students to get involved.
“It doesn’t take your whole life and all of your time to do something that’s going to change peoples’ lives,” Kent said. “It just takes you deciding that’s what you want to do and finding other people who feel the same way.”
Kent said she feels SPLC differs from other activist groups because it advocates for anyone treated poorly because of their race, gender, identity or religion instead of focusing on a specific demographic.
“There are a lot of activist groups here that do amazing work, but SPLC has a history of advocating for everybody who is a victim of discrimination,” Kent said. “I think not only is that important, for everybody to feel like they have a safe space, but for them to feel like they have some kind of information about how to take action.”
Club Secretary General and third-year sociology major Sanjukta Koppolu said she appreciates the club’s inclusive mentality.
“It’s important because you have to realize that in an environment like a college campus, you are part of a community, so I think everyone is obligated to help each other out,” Koppolu said. “It shouldn’t be just women dealing with sexism or people of color dealing with racism. It should be everyone.”
Club Vice President and third-year English and psychology double major Caterina Lazzara, said she is interested in the club’s focus on legal rights.
“I wanted to get involved here and make policy changes that would prevent these injustices from happening in the future,” Lazzara said.