Grad students Lisa August-Schmidt and April Ridlon may be new to the UCSB neighborhood, but they are already fostering a sense of community here. August-Schmidt and Ridlon, who are in their first quarter as Ph.D. students in the Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology department, were disheartened to see anger and negativity surrounding recent protests at the UC campuses in Davis and Berkeley. Feeling the need to have the UCSB community come together to support shared values of civil discourse, freedom of expression and nonviolence, the pair have been instrumental in organizing “In Solidarity” on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 4 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion and Storke Plaza.
The event will begin at 4 p.m. in Corwin with an Open Forum involving students, faculty and administrators. In an open-mic format, participants may express ideas and pose questions to the campus community. A panel of students, faculty and staff will moderate the discussion. At 5 p.m., there will be a peaceful community procession to Storke Plaza, where a Candlelight Vigil “to reaffirm the common values at the foundation of our campus community” will take place.
August-Schmidt said she and Ridlon were disturbed when learning about the use of pepper spray on peaceful student protesters at UC Davis on Nov. 18. Ridlon had worked at a lab at UC Davis, and August-Schmidt graduated from UC Berkeley and had worked there until this past summer.
“My fiancé and youngest sister are current students at Cal,” August-Schmidt told the GradPost, “so seeing the violence there really hit close to home, and I was not comfortable sitting idly by while my friends, family and fellow students fight for my right to affordable education. Feeling somewhat isolated from the rest of the movement, April and I decided to create the type of event we wanted to participate in here at UCSB.”
Since the pair are new to the campus and had never done any political organizing, they sought the guidance and help of Katya Armistead, Assistant Dean of Students and Director, Office of Student Life, and Miles Ashlock, Associate Director of the Office of Student Life. Both are third-year grad students in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. “We have been extraordinarily impressed by the outpouring of support from the administration,” August-Schmidt said in praising the efforts of Armistead, Ashlock and others.
“We want to give our campus the opportunity to come together in solidarity with our fellow students and faculty across the UC system to show support for free speech and higher education funding in a safe environment,” August-Schmidt said. “April and I believe that holding a candlelight vigil will reinforce our commitment to nonviolence and unity as a campus community while allowing folks to participate without fear of arrest or retribution. We hope that this event can serve as an example for other universities hoping to unite and mobilize their campus communities.”
Said Ridlon: “If there is any good that can come of something like this, I hope that it includes better communication and unity within and among the UC communities, and a commitment from all parties that our campuses should be a safe environment for political and intellectual discourse, no matter what the subject.”
Look for the event on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ucsbosl.