Ashley L. Slupski '11
December 18, 2009
Ashley L. Slupski ’11 is one of nine Compton Center Peace and Justice interns who work to bring social justice and human rights issues to the forefront of DePauw’s campus. Slupski, a women’s studies major and conflict studies minor, is devoted to raising awareness of issues concerning human rights and the environment – specifically in regard to people who are affected by environmental injustice and climate change.
The Compton Center is a resource for students interested in issues of peace and social justice. Its programs are student-centered, designed to empower students, facilitate student initiatives and foster social responsibility as part of DePauw's academic mission.
“I am concerned about the people who are affected by environmental injustice and climate change. People who live in areas where there is mountain top removal or nuclear waste dumps are usually the most marginalized people (women, people of color, poor people and indigenous peoples),” Slupski says. “These people have no choice about how the environment around them is being treated because they have no power within the system already.
“I want to change the way people think about our relationship with the environment and make them realize that when we talk about climate change, it shouldn’t be just about protecting the forests or birds,” Slupski says. “It should also be about protecting the small island nations that will be destroyed in 10 years because of rising sea levels, or about women in many parts of the Global South who walk endless miles to get water because some corporation has pumped all of their water to sell in plastic bottles in the United States, or the people in Appalachia whose lungs and water are being contaminated by mountain top removal.”
Slupski and two other Compton Center interns hosted a water conference to examine women and environmental rights issues. Student organizations were invited to participate. “We wanted students to think about women in the Global South having to walk to collect drinking water for their families. These women are often charged – per pump of water – as well.” The students demonstrated this issue by carrying buckets of water around East College lawn to gain appreciation for what it feels like for women who do it daily.
“We asked, why is this important? We need to rethink water, where it comes from and how it impacts us. In the United States, we are privileged. We can turn on a tap, and we can buy bottles of water,” Slupski says.
There is a group of students working to permanently ban the sale of bottled water on campus. “Last year, we banned it for a week and were met with some resistance. Many people believe that you can’t take away their choice to buy water. I understand that, but I think it’s about consumer awareness. It’s important to be aware that the kinds of products you choose as a consumer may have a longer history than you know.”
Slupski, a Posse Scholar from Chicago, is also co-founder of a new organization on campus. Feminista! is a non-hierarchical, multicultural feminist and women’s rights activist organization dedicated to social justice and human rights for all people, including women, people of color, the LGTBQ community and other marginalized groups.
Slupski was inspired to start the new group after the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) group on campus had lost steam. “There wasn’t any excitement or energy from students to support this organization. Some of us had differences with the national organization. For example, FMLA supports increasing our military troops in Afghanistan, which we don’t support,” Slupski says. The differences coupled with the lack of enthusiasm for the organization was enough for Slupski to gain momentum to find support for Feminista!.
“Some of the issue areas that we focus on are women in the arts and sciences, global women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and women and environmental justice,” Slupski says.
“Some of the members of Feminista! do not see themselves as activists or even as feminists, but they have a genuine interest in human rights, social justice and feminism,” Slupski says. “Feminista! tries to provide a space for people who aren’t being served by other organizations or want to be more action oriented.
“Feminista! talks about the intersections of identities and the multiple layers of oppression and injustice faced by people because of their multiple identities, which isn’t what a lot of other organizations want to talk about, for example,” Slupski says. “We can talk about immigration reform, but we also look at immigration reform in terms of racism, sexism, classism and globalization.”
Feminista!, Omega Phi Beta and Amnesty International recently hosted an event, Breaking the Chain: Human Trafficking Awareness. “Breaking the Chain went fairly well. I think that the people who attended the events, especially the screening of Very Young Girls and the Feminista! led discussion of farmworker’s rights learned a lot about the different forms of human trafficking and how it can affect us within the United States and on campus,” Slupski says.
“We recently did a follow-up event and passed out orange price tag bracelets in the Hub (Union Building food court) that said “I’m not for sale” to remind people that even though we aren’t having large events about the topic, it doesn’t mean that human trafficking still isn’t happening.
“I’m grateful we have Feminista!,” Slupski says. “The organization provides a space where everyone can come together. Feminista! is trying to create programming to bring women together socially without any pressure.”
Feminista! will host Ladies First Art Show this spring at the Low Road Gallery in Greencastle. The show is open submission for anyone interested, and the focus is on celebrating women artists, visual and non-visual, such as musicians, writers and filmmakers. DePauw students, faculty and staff, as well as, young women from Greencastle High School are encouraged to submit their work.
“Ashley is one of three undergraduate Sustainability interns,” says Missy! D. Orr ’09, a Fifth-Year Sustainability Intern. “She helps solidify diversity, environmental justice, social justice and human rights in the forefront on campus. She’s always reminding us to think about these issues and how they relate to everything we do."
“There is overlap in her work with other organizations because this is what she pursues in every aspect of her life. Overlapping serves as rather an efficient way to connect the different topics and people on campus,” Orr adds.
“I see a different world,” Slupski says. “There is possibility and promise at DePauw, but how are we using that? How can we make the world a more just place?”