After years on the sidelines of University affairs, Northwestern’s Peace Project is striving to assert its voice once more in matters of social justice on campus.
Originally an umbrella organization encompassing three different groups—Northwestern Opposing War and Racism, Students for Economic Justice, and the Protest Magazine—Peace Project is now a member of the NU Social Justice Coalition, and works to promote peace and justice through activism and education.
“The history of Peace Project is that it started in the late seventies, early eighties,” said Matthew Kovac. The group’s outgoing treasurer and a dedicated promoter of its cause, Kovac is quite familiar with the organization’s history.
“It was active in the anti-apartheid movement, in the student divestment campaign,” Kovac continued. “And it was active throughout the nineties and early 2000’s, in various sort of anti-war and international solidarity efforts.”
But then, soon after the turn of the millennium, Peace Project started to fall into disrepair. According to Kovac, leaders graduated and the organization faced a long period of decline from which they are finally beginning to emerge.
“This year there’s definitely been a notable push to put on more events that we can do for free,” he said.
Peace Project’s newly elected president, Kathryn Prescott, hopes to build this momentum both by bringing more members into the organization, and by strengthening ties to other like-minded groups on campus.
“Our main focus right now is sort of building up our organization,” Prescott said. She added, though, that it’s difficult for such a small group to make a difference on a campus as large as Northwestern’s. According to her, Peace Project sees an average of eight or nine students attending each meeting.
“We don’t have a huge base, and that’s why we need to really foster some recruitment efforts,” she said.
She said the group is looking at Northwestern’s upcoming Social Justice Week—which will run from Monday, May 13, to Saturday, May 18—as their golden opportunity to start to make a name for themselves again on campus. Peace Project will be co-sponsoring an event with the Northwestern University College Feminists, as well as a separate documentary screening, the title of which has yet to be announced.
“I would like to see us take a bigger stand on things on campus, things that affect students,” Prescott said. “Everything is intertwined, so there’s a huge push toward making students aware of things that are bigger than the campus.”
Kovac added that it is important to participate in local struggles as well, “and try to connect those to wider movements that are taking place.”
“That’s the name of the game,” he said.