Executive director of the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Association of
Social Workers to visit three college campuses
Rick Harris, executive director, National Association of Social Workers, RI Chapter, will ride his bike through three colleges in Rhode Island over the next week to discuss the issue of marriage equality with students and encourage them to take action.
Harris biked this morning on the green at Brown University and will ride from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the quad at Rhode Island College. Also, he will visit the quad at The University of Rhode Island from noon to 2 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20.
Over the past six years, Harris has been riding his bike and talking to people throughout New England about how securing equal marriage rights for all Rhode Island families, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, relates to civil rights. In the past, he has primarily focused his efforts on state houses and city halls. However by visiting college campuses, Harris seeks to explain the issue to students and encourage them to become actively involved.
“I think that the college age group will push this over the edge,” said 58-year-old Harris, who is an adjunct professor at RIC and Salve Regina University.
Harris’ outreach to college students will take several forms. By proudly displaying on his bike a Marriage Equality Rhode Island sign and a banner that says, “Support civil marriage (same gender marriage),” Harris will bring the issue to the attention of passers-by. For students that approach him, Harris will talk to them about why equal marriage for all is a civil right and answer their questions.
He also will have his Traveling Proclamation for Civil Marriage available. Although he has collected more than 4,500 signatures, Harris will not use this document for political purposes. Instead, he hopes that by signing the document people will simply solidify their commitment to the issue, he said.
“Every person that I talk to is going to touch several people in the year and will hopefully change their minds,” Harris said.
Since college students often keep their minds open to political and social ideas, Harris expects that his rides through campus will make a positive impact. Essentially, he is “planting the seeds” of change, he said.
To help Harris fulfill his mission, student organizations at Brown University and RIC are also taking part in the marriage equality cause. At Brown University, members of the political clubs QPAC and the Brown Democrats are hosting a voter registration table and passing out MERI buttons and bumper stickers this morning. This afternoon, RIC students from the Bachelor’s of Social Work Organization will do the same starting at 12:30 p.m. in the campus quad as part of Campus Activities Day.
By registering students to vote, these organizations will enable them to elect politicians that agree with their stance on marriage equality. The efforts of Harris and members of his supporting student organizations will renew student interest in marriage equality and spur them to action.
Harris is excited to continue his mission of achieving marriage equality by riding to the colleges. Since he was a child, gay rights issues intrigued Harris. Now he is proud to champion marriage equality as an ally for the LGBT community, he said.
“I grew up knowing that what gender someone was didn’t matter, it was just about love,” Harris said.