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Friday, Nov 28, 2014

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Student Valerian Riddle holds zero tolerance sign

Photo courtesy of: Tehama Lopez Bunyasi

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Student Ryan Carrigan interviews Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

Photo courtesy of: Tehama Lopez Bunyasi

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Student Anjelica Oswald demonstrates her intolerance for discrimination

Photo courtesy of: Tehama Lopez Bunyasi

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Food For Thought Project allows students to make strides for change


Students in Assistant Professor of Political Science Tehama Lopez Bunyasi's Politics of Race course this semester received a hands-on look at how politics can lead to change while working on the project "OU Food for Thought."

The guidelines for this project were fairly simple. Students were asked to choose an issue that they all could support and promote discussion and awareness of the issue on campus. The class chose zero tolerance policies in the state of Ohio, which justifies the permanent removal of students from the education system and includes the issue of the school-prison pipeline.

"What they did together as a class went well beyond my expectations," said Lopez Bunyasi.

One student in this class is senior Renee Hagerty, who is a member of Students for Education Reform (SFER). This organization exists to promote awareness of inequity issues in the K-12 education system. She used her resources through SFER and teamed up with the Ohio Student Association (OSA). Together, the organizations worked to promote the abolishment of zero tolerance policies through a larger network of students and coordinated an open-mic night event for students to speak out and learn more about the cause.

"We reached out very early to other students to begin to build on-campus support for the issue," said Hagerty.  

She and her team reached out to several musical performers to participate in the event.

"As a group, we put up and passed out fliers. I worked to raise issue awareness with the larger base of students by writing pieces for The Post and The New Political. From there, it was just a matter of managing logistics and creativity to create the best event possible," said Hagerty.

The event brought students together on the evening of April 10 to join in the fight against zero tolerance and discuss how they can show the Ohio government how much it is in need of change.

"I hope students realize the power in sharing their story," said Hagerty. "Students have incredible insight into what does and does not work in our educational system. By sharing stories from their experiences with those in power (in this case state legislators) they can influence the future of our education system for the better."

Lopez Bunyasi's said her assignment gave students like Hagerty a chance to step in and promote change rather than just converse about it in a classroom. Students had the chance to find their voices in society and step up to the plate for something they believe in.

"I am really proud of my students for putting their liberal arts education to good use," said Lopez Bunyasi. "They are thinking critically, thinking for themselves and acting with the good of society in mind."