Sunrise GW releases plan for addressing racial, equity issues in organization

Sunrise GW released principles and actions Tuesday for the organization to follow to ensure minority voices are fully represented following criticism of the group for lack of inclusivity.

Sunrise formed a Justice, Equity and Anti-Oppression working group after Students Against Imperialism published a letter late last month denouncing racism in leftist organizations like Sunrise GW and GW Students for Bernie. The working group’s recommendations for the fall semester, which Sunrise GW leadership approved Friday, include plans like making “genuine efforts” to uplift the voices of students from marginalized communities, according to Sunrise’s statement.

“In line with the national Sunrise Movemeber’s 8th Principle that ‘We embrace experimentation and we learn together,’ we believe in accountability and restorative justice and believe that the best way to address problematic behavior is to call people in rather than calling them out,” the release states.

Sunrise GW created the working group following the release of the SAI letter to address racial and equity issues in the organization.

Representatives of Sunrise GW did not return a request for comment.

The working group met with multiple parties including Sunrise members, GW community members and leaders in the national Sunrise Movement – a national youth-led movement that advocates for political action on climate change – over the past few weeks to outline the six principles included in the document, the letter states.

“This plan of action is not intended to simply be a laundry list of quick fixes; rather, it represents our hub’s firm commitment to the ongoing process of dismantling systems of oppression wherever they are found,” the release states.

The members of the working group designed the plans assuming on-campus operations take place in the fall, according to the letter. The organization’s in-person plans will be delayed until students are able to return to campus if the virtual learning period continues, the letter states.

The letter states the organization will give people of color and black, indigenous and other marginalized groups “priority” to participate in opportunities like organizing training and leadership positions.

The current working group will serve as an interim JEAO Committee to oversee all possible “issues” regarding the organization’s outlined principles until a permanent committee – made up of at least five and no more than seven members – forms in the fall, the letter states.

Committee members will be selected through an application process and required to participate in “restorative-justice training,” according to the letter. The organization will aim to accept BIPOC and white students onto the committee so the responsibilities of the committee are not put “solely” on BIPOC members, the letter states.

The organization will create a Justice, Equity and Anti-Oppression report form – modeled after the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s bias-report form – available on the group’s website to report violations against the organization’s principles in group meetings, social media posts or in-person interactions, according to the letter.

The primary task of the committee will be addressing reports submitted to Sunrise GW, the letter states.

“While we recognize that for some people, this plan of action will not be sufficient to repair that broken trust, that in no way diminished our steadfast committee to fundamentally transforming Sunrise GW into a genuinely just, equitable and anti-oppressive movement,” the letter states.

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