Statement released by participants and attendees of the CSSD anniversary symposium

A Conference Statement
September 28, 2018

We – several hundred students, teachers, writers, artists, activists, scholars, community members, privileged and disempowered alike— gathered together today to think, reflect, and act on the theme of “What We Can Do When There’s Nothing To Be Done,” for the tenth-year anniversary symposium of the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University.

We spent the day together critically thinking about what we can do to advance social justice through various forms of intellectual work, artistic creation, political action and modes of protest.

All the while, we have felt outraged at the political developments in this country, just outside these walls.

We protest the disrespect and disregard for women displayed by Republican men on the Senate Judiciary Committee and by the current administration more generally.

We strongly oppose the possible confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

We are horrified by the structures that promote a man accused of violently assaulting women and who supports policies that violate the rights of so many people. Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings raised many red flags about his suitability for the court, ranging from his incomplete financial disclosures to the extreme partisanship unbefitting a judge and the egregious lack of judicial temperament he displayed.

We are heartened that the confirmation vote has been delayed and we demand that the FBI investigation be unhurried, unbiased, and thorough.

We pledge to act to oppose his confirmation.

We are committed to justice for all.


Five principles emerged from our conference discussions, and we pledge to carry these with us beyond the privileged bounds of the space we occupied on Friday. This is both a call to action and a reminder that action can be taken:

1.      We CAN do something, even when there seems to be nothing to be done.

2.      If capable, we can and should utilize our privilege and the spaces we occupy to facilitate resistance, even in the face of presumed hopelessness or pessimism (the two are not to be conflated).

3.       We acknowledge the power of small gestures to lead to acts – to lead to movements.

4.      We will “resist temptation to return things to normal.”

5.      “To change the world we must also be changed.”