GSAPP hosted the inaugural meeting of the Alliance to End Hate NJ on February 15, 2018, at the Center for Applied Psychology. The event drew representatives from a wide variety of organizations and institutions, including schools, law enforcement, the U.S. Congress, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits, with the three-fold goal of enhancing collaboration, promoting a unified voice, and supporting anti-bias education. Alliance to End Hate NJ was formed in reaction to a recent act of hate in Princeton, N.J., according to GSAPP Alumnus Lew Gantwerk (School ’84).
“I want to thank Lew Gantwerk, who has been with Rutgers for many years, for bringing this program to us,” said GSAPP Dean Francine Conway in her welcoming remarks to the group. Gantwerk was the first director of GSAPP’s Center for Applied Psychology and winner of the 2011 Peterson Prize.
“The spirit of this gathering is something very intrinsic to our school,” said Conway. “We value diversity, and we have a commitment to representing the underserved and underrepresented. These are values that our doctoral and master’s degree students are trained in and that they, as well as our faculty, embrace.”
Conway also spoke about relevant work taking place at GSAPP’s Inclusive Schools Climate Initiative, which is focused on creating a school climate that provides opportunities for growth and development for all students and improves engagement and social participation of students with disabilities, and Answer, a national organization that provides and promotes access to comprehensive sexuality education for young people and educators. Conway offered the assistance of GSAPP, stating, “This mission is consistent with ours. … We really look forward to all of the important work that will happen here.”
Ross Wishnick, chair of the Princeton Human Services Commission, founder of Send Hunger Packing Princeton, and vice chairman of The Bank of Princeton, provided introductory remarks. He recounted that the incident in Princeton spurred him to research hate and hate crimes. Wishnick learned that New Jersey did not have an umbrella organization for the many groups throughout the state that work to fight hate and bias. “So I started calling people I knew,” said Wishnick. “Then I called people I didn’t know. Then I called people they know … it became apparent to everyone I talked to that there are some good reasons for us to get together, which brings us here today.”
Attendees heard presentations from two speakers and then broke into small working groups. Amman Seehra cofounder and chair of The One Project NJ, a nonprofit organization that uses volunteerism as a vehicle to bring people from different backgrounds together, spoke about ways to respond to hate. Seehra is also Northeast Regional Director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., and the vice chair of the Mercer County Court System’s Minority Concerns Committee. Seehra was followed by Dr. Hanna Gebretensae, director of the Tufts University Eliot-Pearson Children’s School, who spoke about anti-bias culture in the schools. Attendees then broke into small groups to identify the main sources and issues that contribute to hate and bias; discuss how communities prioritize, communicate, prevent and respond to hate and bias instances; and explore opportunities for collaboration between the disparate groups.