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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Exciting changes planned for the Peace and Justice Studies program

Exciting changes planned for the Peace and Justice Studies program

The Peace and Justice Studies department (P&J) here at Knox is relatively new, but next year it’ll be getting a make-over. Leanne Trapedo Sims is the newest professor in the department and the future Chair. Sims introduced herself to Knox with a personal meet and greet and brainstorm session co-hosted with current Peace and Justice Studies Co-Chair Jonah Rubin. There was lemonade and chips, and besides the students, a plethora of bees in attendance. 

Before even talking about herself, Sims asked the students to share their own experiences with activism. She wanted to know names, backgrounds, and social justice interests. Students shared and reflected on experiences from working on the US-Mexico border to starting Queer organizations on their high school campuses. This set the tone of the meeting clearly; this was not about Leanne, but the Knox community and what we could accomplish together. 

Sims did share some facts about herself, like how growing up in South Africa during Apartheid formed her into the activist she is today. She has worked in many facets of activism and social justice, but her main focus is incarceration. She lived in Hawaii for 12 years, working in the only women’s prison in the state. Her book about her work there is set to be released in 2022. Sims told the attendees that while prison abolition is her goal, for now she’ll settle for prison reform. 

Before sharing their own goals for the program, Sims and Rubin asked us, the students, what we wanted to see for the future of the department. It took a little while for people to speak up, but once they found their voices, a plethora of ideas poured out. Students want to see career panels and fairs about careers in Peace & Justice. They want speakers for the Knox Community and Galesburg to learn from together, not just for specific classes. They want an Indigenous Cultural Center, more support on Title IX, and promotion of local resources like the NAACP. But most of all, they want a reckoning of the Knox College culture. 

That is exactly what Sims is planning. “If we are going to be peace and justice, then we have to be peace and justice,” she told us, making it clear she not only won’t shy away from hard conversations about discrimination on our campus but make the space for them. Sims and Rubin recognize that it is their responsibility as the P&J department to support the change students want to see on campus. They want to be the resource that we need when something happens and those in charge are simply not listening or we don’t have the knowledge to handle it. “We want to bring in young activists and artists to create a constant dialogue,” Sims told us, making it clear that she was in this fight for the long haul. A turnabout of campus culture is a lofty goal, one that the P&J studies professors believe we can reach and surpass, but that will take a lot of time and a lot of work from all of us. 

Sims had some more goals as well, specifically around the programs she wants to bring to Knox. One of the first programs the Peace and Justice Studies department is trying to get off the ground is an Inside Out Prison Exchange Program with the Hill Correctional Center, five minutes from campus. The program name comes from referring to prisoners as ‘insiders’ and people outside the prison system as ‘outsiders.’ This, Sims stressed, is to avoid using dehumanizing words that further the differences between the two groups. The goal of the program is simple: to deconstruct stereotypes and social hierarchies by forming relationships between those on the outside and those on the inside. The program works by having inside students and outside students take classes as a group, learning and forming a community together.

Sims and Rubin are also trying to get a Peace and Justice studies internship program off the ground, to bring the Motus Theater group here to do a performance for us, and many more events for those in and out of the program. They highlighted that they want student support and input on everything they do. 

A future meeting to continue to shape the future of the P&J department will be held on Wednesday, October 27th at 4pm, and all students who are interested are invited to attend. Sims and Rubin intend to rebuild this program exactly how we, the students, want it. The new Peace and Justice Studies department intends to redefine Knox, together. 

If anything in here sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, email [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Eleanor Lindenmayer
Eleanor Lindenmayer, Editor-In-Chief
Eleanor Lindenmayer '25 (she/her) is a journalism major. She started working for TKS as a staff writer when she was in her first year. She has also worked as the discourse editor and is now the Editor-in-Chief. Eleanor has also been published at Tri States Public Radio, where she was an intern and a freelancer. Eleanor was born and raised in the pacific northwest and will argue that there is no better place on this earth. Awards Illinois College Press Association 2024
  • 1st Place In Depth Reporting
  • 1st Place News
  • 1st Place Feature
Illinois College Press Association 2023
  • 2nd Place Columns
  • Honorable Mention Columns
Knox College 2023 Ida M. Tarbell Memorial Prize For Investigative Reporting    

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    Hannah TerryOct 15, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    Such a well-written article! I’m excited to hear about this stuff happening on campus.