Peter Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Award
Many people are passionate about changing the world around us. Yet, few move beyond mere rhetoric to actual action. Before I came to Wesleyan, I was indeed one of those who dreamed of big things, in terms of bringing positive change, but dream is all I did. It’s easy to fall into that trap: you make yourself feel good by telling yourself that one day you’ll change the world, but the truth is that unless you translate that vision into action, you’re deluding yourself and others around you.
It was only when I came to Wesleyan that I actually saw people moving beyond rhetoric to action. Passionate about different causes, Wesleyan students pursue social justice in one way or another. While there’s a lot that divides this campus, the commonly shared pursuit of a socially just society does serve as a cohesive force. From women’s education in Kenya to mental illness in India, the campus is filled with inspiring individuals who are actively solving structural social problems.
While many of these social justice pursuits are led by a few individuals or groups, the university and student body actively support such efforts through various initiatives, such as the Projects for Peace and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, and by providing general logistical and financial support. Even those who may not be passionate about a certain cause are eager to contribute whatever they can. One only needs to visit Espwesso during one of the regular fundraisers there to get an idea of how passionate Wesleyan students are about contributing to projects that are solving social problems.
One such social activist was Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ’03. In the words of Stephen Bassett, “Peter was the history major, the social activist, leader of the campus chapter of Amnesty International, the brooder on social ills. He cared, he paid attention, he voted. After he graduated he spent time tutoring at his former elementary school. In a nation of citizens turning away from politics, from voting, from caring—even from reality—Peter was the antidote.” In addition, he actively participated in the United Student and Labor Action coalition to secure benefits for the Wesleyan custodial staff. More than anything else, he took injustice personally and strived against it. His legacy exemplifies the rich passion for activism on our campus as Wesleyan students seek to create a more just world.
In Peter Morgenstern-Clarren’s memory, his family has created the Peter Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Award, which honors his memory and activism for social justice. As the recipient of the award last year, I am thankful to Dr. Hadley Morgenstern-Clarren and The Honorable Pat Morgenstern-Clarren for their generosity in sponsoring this award. The award comes with a financial contribution of $1500, which recognizes students’ work in pursuing a just world and in the process, bridging gaps between different groups. Sophomores and Juniors in good standing are encouraged to apply, and the judging committee will select the applicant who best embodies the spirit of social justice.
In addition, the Peter Morgenstern-Clarren Employee Recognition Award honors the employees who play a crucial role in helping Wesleyan students. Nominations can be submitted by students and staff; eligible employees include custodians, dining staff, grounds crew, and building maintenance staff.
The application for both awards is due on Feb. 29 -at 5 p.m. All materials must be sent to Dean Marina Melendez. For more information: http://classof2014.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2012/01/30/morgenstern-clarren-social-justice-award-for-sophomores-deadline-february-29-2012/. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Dean Marina Melendez email@example.com or me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chaudry is a member of the class of 2012.