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The Scarlet & Black

Voicebox to Revamp as Anti-Oppression Group

Concerned activists can breathe a sigh of relief—rumors suggesting the Voicebox’s impending closure are unsubstantiated.

Chaplain Deanna Shorb, who oversees the Voicebox, confirmed that Grinnell’s student activism center will remain open.  However, it will bear a different name and be active as its own organization in addition to being a resource for other student groups, as it has been since its founding in 2006.

Hannah Kapp-Klote ’13 and Anna Hall ’13 are transforming the Voicebox into a new student group called the Anti-Oppression Peer Education Network, or OPEN.  OPEN’s primary purpose will be to discuss, and counteract, the forces of marginalization and oppression on Grinnell’s campus as well as in the wider world.  The group will address issues like racism and classism among the student body. It will also contribute to pre-existing student efforts such as the attempt to raise awareness and aid in the prevention of sexual assault on campus.

“The Voicebox didn’t really do its own work as much as it was a hub for other activists, and it was a support system for other activists.  OPEN is different because it wants to provide that same support and that same opportunity to be a hub, but it also is going to generate social justice programming and peer-to-peer education of its own,” Kapp-Klote said.

“I’m not saying it’s not the Voicebox.  I’m saying it’s not the Voicebox as it has been,” Shorb said.

Shorb also addressed rumors that the space currently occupied by the Voicebox will be taken over by a different campus group.

“I’ve heard others who are clamoring for that space, but the space isn’t available right now.”

Such rumors may be driven by the fact that the Voicebox’s once-robust membership has lost momentum in recent years.

“We’ve had a fair amount of transition ever since the students who had the vision for Voicebox graduated.  So it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that it would be a transitional time,” Shorb said.  “I think people have been trying to figure out what it was, instead of trying to figure out what it should be.”

That task now lies with Kapp-Klote and Hall.  For most of the school year, they have been collaborating with Shorb, RLC Autumn Wilke, and various students and student groups to determine how to put the Voicebox’s space and budget to good use.  They quickly realized that in addition to functioning as a meeting space for social justice-oriented groups, the Voicebox’s resources could be used to address new and pressing student issues.

“We are seeing a need for peer-to-peer education on campus, especially focused around facilitation of social justice issues and conversations about how social justice pertains to issues on campus,” Kapp-Klote said.

OPEN will aim to foster dialogue and promote inclusion of a wider range of student voices in campus discussions.

“We see this lack of communication that people keep talking about and we want to make sure that we’re bridging [this gap], and making sure that everybody is having an opportunity to participate in the conversation,” Kapp-Klote said.

Kapp-Klote and Hall also believe OPEN will help bring students together by encouraging them to interact with peers outside of their everyday social groups.  Their hope is that OPEN will make Grinnell a more unified and equal campus.

OPEN is still in the planning stages, but will emerge as a fully-functional student group next August.  Students old and new are encouraged to check out OPEN’s booth at the fall activity fair and join the email list.

In the meantime, Kapp-Klote encourages would-be activists to contact [voicebox] for a helpful list of frequently asked questions about activism at Grinnell, or check the [voicebox] page on Plans.

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