When Keegan Dohm ’16 read about the Women’s March on Washington on Facebook, she knew that she wanted to help students participate as an Americorp Vista on campus.
Now this Saturday, Jan. 21, Dohm, another staff member and 53 Knox students will arrive in Washington, D.C. to march. At the same time, members of the Knox and Galesburg communities will be preparing to participate in their own local Women’s March in Galesburg.
The Women’s March on Washington began as a Facebook group in the hours after the election of Donald Trump and soon grew into a national movement. Groups in major cities all around the country announced their own marches, all set for the morning of Jan. 21, the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency. Students who are attending the D.C. march raised $8,989 to take a bus to D.C.
“I thought we should probably arrange to make opportunities like that available to students, which is part of my job description,” Dohm said.
She soon contacted senior and Students Against Sexism in Society (SASS) Co-President Blair to see if the club would be willing to sponsor the Knox march. They were soon joined by sophomores Jenn Erl, Riley Grossman and Ananda Badili and began organizing how to sponsor the march over winter break.
“As a feminist, it’s really important for me to be able to go to this march and march for all women who cannot go,” Student Senate member and freshman Eden Sarkisian explained. “It’s not about the people who are going, it’s about the people who don’t get to go. It’s about people who have less privilege than I do.”
In addition to the march in Washington, there will be a local march held on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in Galesburg. Students, faculty and staff as well as Galesburg citizens will be meeting on the north side of the Knox County Courthouse to rally before the march, which will end at the Galesburg Public Library with a period of time to reflect.
Students also have the opportunity to meet in Taylor lounge Friday at 7 p.m. to make posters for the march.
Professor of Political Science Karen Kampwirth helped organize the local march because of her beliefs about the election and state of the nation.
“We have an illegitimate president who will be inaugurated on Friday,” Kampwirth said. She called the electoral college a “relic” of an earlier time, one where women and minorities did not have the right to vote. “Donald Trump does not represent the values of the majority.”
Kampwirth isn’t the only professor marching. Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies Magali Roy-Fequiere, Chair of Classics Brenda Fineberg and custodian Diana Mackin helped initiate the local march as well.
Several students attending the march in Washington reasoned that, while the march is bipartisan, it represents a deeper meaning.
“I think a lot of people see Donald Trump as not being a champion of women,” freshman Katerina Sasieta said. “[We’re] saying that we’re not going to back down, we’re not going to be silent and take what you say about us. We’re going to put pressure on you if you try to take away our rights.”
To cover costs, the D.C. group went to a variety of groups for support.
“I emailed a lot of clubs and Greek organizations when we first started,” Dohm said. “Then we worked with Knox alums who are also organizers to start the GoFundMe and also proposed to Senate.”
In total, the Knox group raised $8,989 in funds from their GoFundMe page, Student Senate, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Phi Gamma Delta, the Interfraternity Council, Alliance for Peaceful Action, the Food Recovery Network, Students Against Sexism in Society and additional student donations. The money all went toward getting a charter bus to take to D.C. and pay for hotels for drivers while they marched.
There was some debate about how much money Student Senate could provide to the march. When the initial request came in at $6,722, Student Senate voted to table the request, asking the group to continue to fundraise. A week later, the group came back with the number $2,900, which Student passed without debate.
Senior and Student Senator on the Finance Committee Zooey Brewer, one of the few members who voted no, expressed some concerns about the funds granted.
“I voted no against the proposal for a number of reasons. First, we have a little under $7,000 for the entire term, which is about on par for what we spend every term for all of the clubs on campus’ additional funds request,” she said.
Brewer noted that I-Fair usually uses a large portion of funds because of the scale of the event and worried not enough money would be available to them and other clubs. “The fact that we spent not quite half of the budget on a singular event for 53 students is concerning to me.”
In addition, Brewer worried about the nature of the event. “As representatives for the entire student body, we’re going to fund political events that we have to be willing to fund them on both sides [of the political spectrum].”
However, Political Science Professor Duane Oldfield said that there are benefits for students and the country participating in this march. “Movements are often where the grassroots base … In terms of organizing, a hostile administration can often, even if it’s bad in terms of policy, it can be good for organizing É You can look at the Tea Party as an example of opposition to a president turning into something that has a real long term impact.”
Whatever their beliefs, students of all years have their own reasons for attending the march, some politically charged and others due to recent, eye-opening experiences.
Senior Shakisha Grays said that her main reason for attending the march was for women’s sexual health rights.
“I’m going because I support women’s rights and I feel like in this country women have rights, but not all rights in a sense compared to men,” she said. “I feel like our sexual health is in the hands, politically, in the hands of men who have no relation to being a female.”
Talking about women’s rights has also been enlightening to freshman Cara Chang. “I never felt that being a woman was a disadvantage until I came to the U.S. and realized that it was. I’m taking a philosophy of feminism course and it’s surprising how many disadvantages [of being a woman] I have been blinded to and didn’t realize were happening, because I grew up in a place where [women’s rights] isn’t talked about.”