Letter to the Editor: New Social Justice Tours on Campus

By Julia Withers /// Op-Ed Contributor

I appreciate the interest in our social justice tour in last week’s editorial; however, I wish that the author did not make assumptions about the tour’s affiliations, its content, or cast doubt over its future. To me, the angle of last week’s editorial makes many assumptions and lacks the nuance and middle ground that exists in every situation. The author assumed that the tour’s collaboration with Admissions would corrupt the exposure of “all the facts.”

He also assumes that it is inherently negative that the tour is associated with different departments of the Lewis & Clark institution. I see collaboration as a positive endeavor that helps gain the support of as much of the community as possible, while placing an emphasis on teamwork and inclusion in a unified effort. The Department of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) gave Karissa Tom (‘16)  and I as Program Coordinators the inspiration and resources that we needed, and Admissions supported us because their department has experience giving tours and allowed us to work with prospective students. The Admissions office is extremely supportive, and has asked that we give the tour to their administrators. We have already given the social justice tour to current tour guides, so they have this knowledge and can share it with prospective students. These departments help us spread awareness about often untold histories. However, the author falsely claimed that “sheltering the tour under the admissions umbrella was a necessary and prudent first step, but hopefully, the organizers will at some point find a way to offer tours independent of this college office.” In reality, collaboration was a benefit, not a necessity.

Collaboration is also important in the audience of our tour; administrators, faculty, and students have attended, which creates an inclusive and dynamic atmosphere for change. Having these individuals from different offices, groups, and departments come together shows that LC cares about social justice and is ready to build the alliances necessary to create meaningful change on campus. 

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I take issue with the fact that the author also had not attended the tour and yet he spoke as an informed authority about it. I had previously let the author know that Admissions was supportive of the tour, and yet he neglected to include this positive note in the article. We also gained support from the Student Alumni Association and individual faculty and administrators.

The author also failed to speak with Karissa or myself about the tour; instead, he simply assumed that the information he shared with us when we were researching would suffice. I also believe that making assumptions about the institution being inherently corrupt and pro-censorship is not a productive stance. In fact, our tour is essentially student-researched and student-led, and I believe that fellow students should support each other rather than immediately searching for flaws, unless they take issue with the students’ actions.

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