SCS Change The Status Quo. Social Justice Conference. Friday & Saturday Feb. 16-17

The Center for Service in Action is excited to announce the 16th Annual Change the Status Quo: A Social Justice Conference, on Friday, February 16, and Saturday, February 17, 2018. This conference aims to empower students to use the Learn by Doing spirit to challenge social norms, ask critical questions, demand solutions and make lasting social change. Through guest speakers, inspiring workshops, and engaging sessions, students will leave the conference with a new-found sense and understanding of social justice, and how they can take ownership of their role in moving the needle with regard to social change.

Change the Status Quo: A Social Justice Conference

The Friday night session on February 16 includes an introduction to social justice topics with a documentary screening of Near Normal Man and Q&A with filmmaker Charlene Stern. The main event on Saturday February 17 will feature a keynote by Holocaust survivor and social activist, Ben Stern, zero-waste breakfast and lunch, resource fair and a full day of workshops organized by student and community experts on a wide variety of social justice issues.

Documentary Film Screening "Near Normal Man." Followed by Q&A with Charlene Stern. Friday February 16th, 6pm in University Union Room 220

The Preview Night documentary screening is free and open to all. 

"Near Normal Man" is a half-hour documentary film, told in a first-hand account by Ben Stern, a Polish Jew, who survives 2 ghettos, 9 concentration camps and 2 death marches. The Nazis identify him as one of the dangerous Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto. He emerges alive, only to face the Nazis again - 30 years later, this time in Skokie, Illinois. Ben decides he will not let them march in his adopted hometown and confronts his rabbi who tells the survivors to "stay home, close the shades and let them pass." Leading with a small group of survivors, Ben wages a fiercely public battle against the Nazis, ACLU and Chicago Jewish leadership. 

"Near Normal Man informs, strengthens and compels viewers to face and take on the circumstances of their own life. Ben is not the first or only person to suffer, nor will he be the last. The mystery and wonder of his response is at the heart of this film. It is purposefully created for young people between the ages of 18 to 24 who are coming of age in a world still plagued by prejudice and malicious extremism from Ferguson to Paris, from city streets to college campuses, from election campaigns to European borders. Ben Stern's example demands that we provide the tools to do what he did when the time comes to act against hatred. Near Normal Man does that. Only young people can change the future of our world. This film gives them clarity, provides the tools and inspires commitment to moral action, so desperately needed in our world today." -- Charlene Stern

30 am to 5 pm

Pre-registration is $15 for students and $20 for staff, faculty and community members. Registration includes access to keynote presentation and Q&A with Holocaust survivor and social activist, Ben Stern, zero-waste breakfast and lunch, closing resource fair, and a full day of workshops organized by student and community experts on a wide variety of social justice issues.

Keynote Speaker Ben Stern, a holocaust survivor and social activist. Saturday February 17th at 9am in Chumash Auditorium

Born in Warsaw, Poland, September 21, 1921, Ben grew up in a large family of children raised by religious parents. He was 19 years old on September 8th, 1939 when the Nazis invaded Mogielnice, Poland and his world began to fall apart. He survived 2 ghettos, 9 concentration camps and 2 death marches. Ben was liberated by the American Army on May 8, 1945 in Lebanau by Lauffen, near the Austrian border.

Ben soon met his future wife, Helen Kielmanowicz in Bergen-Belson, a displaced persons camp. Married two months later, they left Europe and arrived in America on May 15, 1946, on the "Marine Flasher," the first ship carrying displaced persons from Europe. In the years that followed, Ben built a full life with Helen. Ben and Helen raised three children, managed a successful business and were active in their community. In 1959, they moved to Skokie, Illinois.

In 1976, hate mail was first delivered into every Skokie mailbox. It was the start of a Nazi campaign waging hatred and fear among the many survivors who lived there. A year later, when the first date for the Nazi march was made public, Ben was the first to stand up and publicly oppose the Nazi event. With a few other survivor leaders, Ben worked tirelessly for more than a year to grow support and persuade the public, government, religious communities and Jewish organizations to oppose the planned march. Earlier this year, Ben led a march of anti-racist counter protesters against a right-wing protest at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley. Ben sparks a fierce debate between Hate Speech and the 1st Amendment that continues today.

For over five decades Ben has spoken to hundreds of audiences, of all ages, across America. His life story is featured in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He and Helen now live in Berkeley, California. They have three grown children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 

30 am to 4 pm



  • Social Media Activism: Converting Online Engagement into Real World Change Presented by Heidi Harmon, Mayor of San Luis Obispo
  • The Social Change Model of Leadership Development Presented by Cal Poly Center for Leadership
  • The Value of Peer Mentoring in Service Learning Presented by CSU Monterey Bay Student Leadership in Service Learning Program
  • Building and Sustaining Youth Activism Presented by Sexuality and Gender Acceptance, Women's Empowerment, and Asian Pacific Clubs of Orcutt Academy
  • De-escalation Tips and Tools Presented by Creative Mediation at Wilshire Community Services


  • The Emotional Side of Oppression Presented by NAACP San Luis Obispo County
  • Engaging Multilingualism: Promoting Language Diversity for Social Justice Presented by Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts
  • Not Your Canary: Intersectionality and Social Difference Presented by Cal Poly Cross Cultural Centers
  • Engaging with Resistance to Diversity and Interrupting Bias: A Case Study Facilitation Presented by Cal Poly Advancing Cultural Change


  • "When you hear #MeToo, will you stand up to say #NoMore?" - Tarana Burke: Conversations on Consent, Pleasure, & Accountability Presented by Community Action Partnership, San Luis Obispo, Teen Sexual Health Empowerment Program
  • The Impact of Power: Masculinity, Sexual Assault, and the Entertainment Industry Presented by Cal Poly Men & Masculinity Program
  • How to Start a Movement Presented by Women's March San Luis Obispo
  • Global Advocacy: Stepping Outside of the U.S. Box Presented by Cal Poly Safer


  • Myths vs. Facts about Undocumented Students Presented by Cal Poly Dream Center & UndocuAlly Working Group
  • Learning by Doing: What Community Engagement Can Do for You? Presented by Svetlana V. Tyutina, CSU Northridge Office of Community Engagement
  • Adding Ethnic and Gender Studies Courses to the Curriculum in a California High School District Presented by Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Ethnic and Gender Studies Working Committee and Advisory Group
  • Undocumented Students and Students from Mixed-Status Families in Higher Education Presented by Alejandra Cebreros, Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts


  • Disability Allies Against Ableism Presented by Cal Poly Disability Resource Center
  • The Impact of Service Dogs on Veterans Presented by New Life K9s Service Dogs
  • Convenience Stores: An Inconvenient Truth on Targeted Marketing and Its Consequences Presented by County of San Luis Obispo Health Agency
  • College Student Food Insecurity: Implications for Social Justice Presented by Cal Poly CalFresh Outreach
  • Language and Access to Health Services Presented by Irebid Gilbert, Cal Poly Cross Cultural Centers and Dignity Health


  • Bringing Your Best Self to Social Justice Work Presented by Joy Pedersen, Cal Poly Associate Dean of Students for Student Support, Success and Retention
  • Beyond Shelter: How Students can Support the Homeless Presented by Cal Poly Student Community Services
  • Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Mini Workshop Presented by Restorative Partners
  • Trauma in Our Society: Are We the Cause or the Solution? Presented by Transitions-Mental Health Association

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