Oshkosh Campus Minister Leads Events on Restorative Justice and Inclusivity

The past year has seen some amazing offerings from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh United Methodist Campus Ministry, under the leadership of Ms. Katherine Grooms (Katie). Working in conjunction with, and as an active member of the UWO Interfaith Dialogue and Education Alliance (IDEA), under the umbrella organization Interfaith Youth Core, Katie has sponsored many exciting events and conversations for students of faith on the UWO Campus.

In July 2019, Katie helped plan the lectures by Austen Hartke, “Sexuality and Gender Diversity in the Bible,” author of Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. Lectures included several on-campus appearances, a book signing, and a Talk Back Session with UWO students.

In Fall 2018, Katie helped develop and facilitate ongoing meetings of the student leadership of the many organized UWO Christian groups from across the theological spectrum. The result was the establishment of an ongoing “Talk Better Together” Series, now meeting several times each semester on the UWO campus. Overtures have been made to interfaith groups as well.

The “Moving Past Hate” events in April and May were particularly memorable and essential given the growing diversity of the UWO student body. Two very public hate-speech incidents during the Spring term traumatized and divided the campus. Katie was instrumental, as both a campus minister and an active member of IDEA, in bringing to campus Arno Michaelis and Pardeep Singh Kaleka, authors of The Gift of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist Find Forgiveness After Hate. Their well-attended events fostered a follow-up book group for faculty and students. These events have sparked the new Hate Speech Policy Discussion Group to begin in July, which will bring together a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students to  work on policy language to supplement the UW System Policy on Free Expression as well as give a firmer basis for a campus response based not on retribution but on principles of restorative justice.

Katie was also quite active in organizing and sponsoring campus events during Women’s History Month (March 2019). Again, in conjunction with IDEA, she co-sponsored and participated fully in an interfaith panel discussion, “Inspired to Act: Perspectives from Women on Religion, Activism and Social Justice.”

In Fall 2019, Katie plans monthly Pie and Coffee events on various biblical and theological topics.

A summer book group on Jacqueline Aileen Busse’s Love Without Limits: Jesus Radical Vision for Love with No Exceptionswill precede the author’s visit to the campus in October to inaugurate the World Shakers Speaker Series sponsored by the UWO United Methodist Campus Ministry.

The 2018–2019 school year has been tremendously active and successful for Katie Grooms, director of the United Methodist Campus. Not only has she planned significant events and lectures, these events have had a great impact upon the lives of many on our UWO campus, including students, faculty, and staff. Many of these events will be ongoing, some even monthly. The Hate Speech Policy Discussion Group sparked by the “Moving Past Hate” events will no doubt have truly lasting effect on the overall policy governing free expression on the UWO campus in light of the principles of restorative justice, and create new policies that will impact the campus climate for years to come.

Contact Katie Grooms at umccampusmin@gmail.com. For information on other United Methodist campus ministries in Wisconsin, visit the Wisconsin Board of Higher Education and Student Ministry page.

by Prof. Kathleen Corley, PhD, Department of Religious Studies and Anthropology