Tisch College offers mini-grants to student activists fighting race, discrimination

Through the Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service is beginning to offer mini-grants to Tufts students engaging in student activism and raising awareness of issues involving race and discrimination.

According to Alan D. Solomont, the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar dean of the Tisch College, these mini-grants were first discussed following the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, N.Y. and the role that Tufts students were playing in speaking out against them.

Solomont explained that the staff at Tisch College has been impressed by the recent upsurge of students speaking out about underlying issues of race and discrimination, and that the Tisch College staff had asked what the college could contribute to the increase in activism.

He added that Tisch College already supports student activists in speaking out against issues such as these. “This is a mission of Tisch College –– to educate, support and promote active citizenship on campus and beyond,” he said.

According to Mindy Nierenberg, the senior director of Tisch College Programs, students can apply for these grants online on the Tisch College website on a rolling basis. After their application is received, the Tisch College staff will meet with them to offer questions and advice. At this meeting, applicants are asked to talk about the application and do a presentation of some sort, she explained.

“[The mini-grant] is not just about funding. It’s about connections to resources and advice on being most effective in what you are trying to do,” Nierenberg said.

There is no deadline to apply, and each application is reviewed as it comes in, she added. She explained that after the meeting, students are asked to step outside of the room while the decision of whether or not they will receive the grant is made.

The amount of money that students receive will depend on the budget that the student or group of students submits in their application, Nierenberg explained. She added that individual students can receive up to $150 and a group can receive up to $400.

Solomont said that the staff of Tisch College wanted to help students who were passionate about issues of race and discrimination, whether by helping them go to a conference or event or helping them publish something.

Nierenberg expressed her support for students addressing issues of race and discrimination.

“I think that right now this is an urgent time in our country’s history where issues of race and inequality are at our forefront,” she said. “We want to do whatever we can for students to be at the forefront of addressing these systemic issues.”

Solomont also identified his support for student activists on campus.

“We believe that everyone should exercise their responsibilities as participants in this democracy,” he said. “Our role in the university is to help to impart and instill the values, the skills and the knowledge to be active citizens.”

He added that this is the time when young people start to discover their sense of responsibility.

Both Solomont and Nierenberg hope that students will use them as a resource to promote change.

“I just hope students take advantage of this opportunity, and that if they have any questions to feel free to talk to us,” Nierenberg said.

As a lifelong social and political activist, Solomont expressed his perspective on change.

“Change is hard and change is slow,” Solomont said. “Have we made progress? Absolutely. Do we still have a lot to do? Absolutely. These are not easy issues to deal with, and they do not change overnight.”