“Allyship Week” at Santa Clara Makes Ballot Issues Personal

By Deborah Lohse, Assistant Director of Media and Internal Communications, Santa Clara University

 Santa Clara University students staged a walkout to support undocumented students in 2016. Student groups hope more examples of "allyship" will be encouraged this year, including in the voting booth, during Allyship Week on campus (photo courtesy of Santa Clara University)

Santa Clara University students staged a walkout to support undocumented students in 2016. Student groups hope more examples of "allyship" will be encouraged this year, including in the voting booth, during Allyship Week on campus (photo courtesy of Santa Clara University)

When Santa Clara University senior Chris Carpio arrived on campus in 2015, he had not spent a lot of time thinking about the importance or impact of ballot-box issues like immigration, the environment, gun control or access to education.

But a few things happened to change that. As part of his work with the Filipino student organization, Barkada, Carpio joined the campus Multicultural Center (MCC) and was introduced to the idea of solidarity, including becoming an educator to those who, like his younger self, don’t think such issues are important.

Then, the 2016 presidential election occurred. Carpio said, “This really caused a lot of the MCC and people of color to be challenged in their stances and views in the world. Really big changes were happening, and we had to know where we stood. If you are part of this community, you are committing to these values, which is kind of asking a lot of people sometimes.”

Since then, Santa Clara students like Carpio have staged large rallies on campus in support of undocumented students, and a large walkout last spring, to protest the explosion of gun violence that has been threatening student safety nationwide.

This fall, in anticipation of the midterm elections and to spread the message of solidarity beyond active members like Carpio, the MCC and the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP) are hosting a weeklong program of activities called Allyship Week. Throughout the week, groups representing specific racial, ethnic, political and even environmental-protection communities on campus, will be tabling and sharing ideas for how Santa Clara students can be allies to them —and explaining why that matters.

“It’s hugely important in our modern political culture, which demonizes others— be it other political parties, groups or immigrants—to bring that humanity to issues,” said Isabella Whitworth, associate director of SCCAP. “By giving students an opportunity to learn about these communities, it makes us all more conscientious voters.”

The groups expect a showing from environmental clubs, whose members will show how students can make choices and speak up in the public realm as environmental allies. Groups representing women in business and engineering are also expected to be present, as well as others whose marginalization is being spotlighted by current events.

“Allyship Week lets students know what communities we have here at Santa Clara,” said Emily Mun, associate director of MCC. When students go to vote, “they can ask their representatives what they stand for, and what impact they are going to have on each student’s community —and those around them.”

One voice students will hear during Allyship Week will be that of activist Johanna Toruño, a gay woman of color who uses art in Brooklyn as “artivism,” to share her truths and build allyship. She will conduct a workshop to teach Santa Clara students about “artivism.”

Whitworth said, “The last thing I would want to see is someone watching the news and getting upset, and for them to get apathetic and feel like they are powerless. A huge part of allyship is recognizing how many groups there are around you. Now, how can we give them the mic and help bolster their voices?”


Allyship Week will be a great complement to the variety of events planned on campus related to the midterm elections, including:

  • A free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, entitled Vote for Ethics: A How-to Guide for Voters. This free, short course is open to the public and runs from September 10 through November 6. It gives participants a road map for how to pick an ethical candidate, including six modules of lectures, interviews and case studies. “We need to send a message that the ethical campaigner is the one who will get our vote,” said Hana Callaghan, director of government ethics at the Center. “In order to do that, however, we first have to be able to identify ethical candidates.”

  • Ballots and Bots, a one-day conference at Santa Clara on October 26, will bring specialists in technology and social media together with social scientists to look at the effect of technology on elections, and how best to use and manage it in the future. The event will feature top technologists and a leading U.S. specialist on Russian hacking.

  • A voter registration drive focused on students in campus residence halls, off-campus housing and classes.

  • Election Day viewing parties in the library and other locations.