By Carla Ramazan ‘17, Lydia Grant ‘19, Paulina Hruskoci ‘19
When I was a child, my aunt passed away due to an unsafe abortion in our home country, Romania. This event confused me for a long time. I felt helpless, as though my aunt were merely a statistic, because we had lost her to an easily solvable, yet controversial issue. However, in college, through student-organizing, I realized the impact I have as an activist. My aunt’s story is my story as well. It is the reason I fight for reproductive freedom and other gender issues: so those after me do not struggle within the same systems, but instead have solutions that I will help discover.
My sophomore year of college, I founded Deeds Not Words at UT Dallas. Deeds at UTD is an organization focused on galvanizing young women and members of the LGBTQ+ community to create positive change. Throughout my first year of college, I noticed the dire need for a feminist organization on campus. It was my hope when creating Deeds at UTD that it would allow a space for students to come together and advocate for change both on campus and in the state of Texas. Deeds at UTD started off with about 15 members, and we originally became known on campus for counter-protesting anti-abortion demonstrations at the Plinth. However, in the past few months, under the leadership of courageous and driven women like Paulina and Lydia, Deeds has become so much more than that.
It took an entire semester of freshman year for me to realize that there were actual resources there to help me; a semester during which my studies (and I) suffered greatly. Through Title IX, colleges have the right to create safe environments; on May 6th, Betsy DeVos moved to strip them of this right. With resources from Know Your IX, my first project through Deeds was to start a petition to UTD to implement her policies in the way that is least harmful to survivors and all others who rely on Title IX. Within a week, it became the most-signed petition in UTD history by far with over 2000 student signatures. It was phenomenally successful: six of the seven demands on the petition will be met in the model policy for the entire UT System.
While it’s good that UTD did not take a step back, it’s not enough. One in five women, one in twenty men, and one in four transgender/GNC individuals experience gender-based violence during college; in the aftermath, they are pointed around in circles and expected to find their own way forward. This semester, Deeds will be taking on a number of sexual violence-focused projects dealing with both prevention and the aftermath; safe walk programs, consent education, and outreach programs to educate on Title IX. The change that needs to come about is much larger than UTD, but if just one person lives a life free from sexual violence because of these projects, they will be worth it.
Beyond our Pro-Choice and Title IX advocacy, Deeds Not Words is a community of changemakers at UT Dallas, known for recognizing issues on campus and quickly organizing a response.
In June 2020, we set up a match fund and raised over $2600 for local bail funds and The Afiya Center, a nonprofit that works towards reproductive justice specifically for black womxn. Now, with additional funding that we have raised through student contributions, we are providing supplies to an extensive volunteer base of Deeds members who are sewing reusable masks. In the fall, we will ensure that all students on campus have the ability to protect themselves against COVID-19.
On our social media accounts, students and other campus organizations frequently ask us to provide informational content, lead workshops, promote issues, give advice, or represent their voices in various ways. Some individuals have even shared their personal stories, thanking Deeds Not Words for its far-reaching impact. As we enter the upcoming academic year, I am grateful to have this platform and to be surrounded by such a large community of activists.
I don’t know if Carla and Lydia realize how much they inspire me to continually advocate for marginalized communities everyday. Carla’s mentorship as my McDermott Grandbig and Lydia’s consistent drive to fight for what is right have shaped me into a more effective leader as President of Deeds. With powerful women by my side, I am looking forward to what Deeds Not Words will continue to accomplish.
Where to Donate
Venmo @utd_deeds to support the work our chapter does, or you can also donate to the Deeds Not Words headquarters in Austin through their website.