Students Targeting Oppressive Powers (STOP) is a club that has fought against corrupt establishments all over the world. Last week, STOP participated in a Fight for Fifteen march in Tampa after attending a press conference and workers’ strike in St. Petersburg, was involved in the vigil put together by the Middle Eastern Interest Club and presented a panel at the All Power to the Imagination! weekend conference. Proving to be unstoppable, STOP will be participating in a day of action next week, arranged by the Student Farmworkers Alliance, that plans to focus on Wendy’s imbalanced treatment of their tomato pickers.
The club started in 2008 under the name Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER). SWER was mainly involved with immigrants employed through the Dream Act and participated in a famous march from Miami to D.C. called the Trail of Dreams. SWER briefly evolved into the Student Farmworkers Alliance before becoming STOP in order to include racial justice issues, Killer Coke and a number of other causes.
“All our meetings are open and anyone who would like to see if we could help them with an event or issue they are having or throwing is free to come to us with anything relating to social justice,” second-year and member of STOP Christina Harn said in an email interview. “This can and has included anti-free trade education and activism, holding CIW functions or actions in Sarasota, participating in School of the America’s watch to protest imperialist policies in Latin America, for-profit detention centers and immigration policy more generally, and once last year we organized with a student who experienced wage theft from his workplace and made sure his lost wages were paid in full.”
STOP meets every Monday at 9 p.m. and welcomes students who want to participate in any way possible, whether by simply showing up or bringing an issue to discuss. Members agree upon a schedule of topics for discussion through a listserv the club uses to communicate. This semester, STOP has been holding breakfasts for the custodial staff, an event which all students are welcomed to join in in appreciation for the hard working staff at the school.
“I really like how the club brings opportunities for the members to be involved in different issues,” first-year Lorraine Cruz said. “We all as a whole do things. We are not too big but we get a lot done and seeing things come together is like wow, it’s seeing people all care about one thing.”
Last Monday, STOP began the meeting with an opportunity called Immersion which gives students the chance to experience living and working with migrant farm workers. Immersion is offered through Hope Community Center which maintains a focus on making sure students become educated advocates through working with farmers. People can demonstrate their interest by contacting VISTA Volunteer Coordinator Lacy Mroz.
STOP has a number of rules – or a style, to be more accurate – which guide discussion and the flow of the meetings in general. One of them is called “temperature checks” which confirm that everyone present at the meeting is ready to move on to the next topic. STOP also provides an even slate for everyone to participate equally in the discussions.
“There’s no set leader – we all share responsibility and contribute our ideas to the discussion,” first-year Alex Schelle said. “I love STOP because we’re all working together and all have voice in what happens with the club. Meetings are really comfortable and welcome to everyone…plus we have snacks.”
“Every decision we make is on consensus basis; everyone has equal say in all decisions and we don’t make a call until everyone is behind it,” Harn said. “We practice this with rotating roles of facilitator, note taker, stack keeper and time keeper if necessary. If someone brings something to us chances are pretty good that we will organize or support in solidarity to the degree that we are able to and is appropriate, as our interests are fairly dispersed.”
STOP’s involvement with Killer Coke revolves around the main goal of removing the coke monopoly from schools across the country, starting with New College. Alternatives to the soda brand are welcome and have already included Arizona tea, Bob Marely beverages and Boylan Soda. The latest recommendation has been 365 sodas, sold at Whole Foods. STOP hopes to get companies to send samples of their sodas for the next community meeting.
“Killer Coke is actually a campaign that STOP is running right now, so we have a break out group for it, but that’s essentially most of the same people that are in STOP just meeting extra to do that work,” Harn said. The working group for killer coke meets every Friday at 6 p.m.
“I, like every other member of the club, am granted a lot of flexibility and power and I feel comfortable voicing my opinion even as someone who recently joined the club,” first-year and Catalyst staff writer Giulia Heyward said. “I feel that the club presents opportunity for each member to do what they do best. Each person has value, people feel appreciated and that has created passion.”