Stephen Goeman has left a strong legacy of outspoken student activism at Tufts. As a member of Students Promoting Equality, Awareness and Compassion (SPEAC) and the Coalition Against Religious Exclusion (CARE), Goeman has become an impassioned and vocal member of the Tufts community.
CARE is a relatively new student organization, formalized just this year, that works to raise awareness about religious exclusion and inclusion.
“[CARE] used to be [where] just a handful of us would meet in the LGBT Center [or] in the Campus Center … and write op-eds or just talk about trying to find allies in the administration,” Goeman said. “And then once the [Committee on Student Life] (CSL) policy dropped, we formalized ourselves just about overnight … because it upset a lot of students.”
This year, Goeman helped to found the Consent Culture Network, a coalition group that brings together students concerned about ending rape culture at Tufts and providing resources for survivors of sexual assault on campus. Goeman has also been a leader of the Tufts Freethought Society for all four of his years at the university.
“I didn’t come to Tufts to do these things,” he said. “I came to Tufts to study philosophy … and just lock myself in a book somewhere,” he said. “But Tufts just attracts a lot of really cool radical people with a lot of ideas that I hadn’t even thought about before coming here.”
Goeman said he was attracted to the Freethought Society when he first came to Tufts.
“I became an atheist in high school, and it was really weird to be the one non-believer in a really conservative Christian town. So when I got to Tufts … it was just really cool to be around other people who would have similar thoughts to what I had,” he said.
Goeman said that the Freethought Society helped him to become more open to many different religious communities.
“I’ve been able to form really mutually enriching relationships with individuals and faith communities at Tufts and sort of [see] them as a source for activism,” he explained.
The Freethought Society has also lobbied the administration for a Humanist chaplain for the past few years. The administration has proved receptive so far, although actual progress within the Chaplaincy may be slow.
Goeman’s majors – cognitive and brain sciences and philosophy – have helped him in his journey in activism. He said he was attracted to the work of Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy Daniel Dennett, the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and a renowned philosopher.
“I think the major was helpful in a way in that it often showed why we do things that I would consider unjust, or why people are racist … There’s a huge psychological background to that,” he said.
Goeman this year did research with Professor Ayanna Thomas and graduate student Simon Howard exploring the cross-race effect – the tendency for individuals to be able to recognize faces of their own race better than those of other races. He had initially hypothesized that priming people with certain concepts would change their ability to recognize faces of people who belonged to races other than their own. His research, however, did not support his hypothesis.
“It suggests, at least preliminarily, that the cognitive processes that we use to identify people of our own race are distinct from those that we use to recognize people of another race,” he said.
Goeman says that he is not entirely sure of his post-graduation plans. He writes for the Huffington Post’s religion section and was recently published on Thought Catalog, a digital magazine.
“I’m hoping to do some more writing … and beyond that I’m looking to get involved in interfaith nonprofit work … planning service projects and building bridges between different communities,” he said.
Goeman’s parting words for those not graduating?
“Don’t spend all your time studying. Get out there and do something … The most enriching part of my undergraduate career was the activism work,” he said.