Phronesis: A model of student-based community activism

The logo for Phronesis, a local student-led community activist organization that has a hand in many protests both in and around Ashland.

The logo for Phronesis, a local student-led community activist organization that has a hand in many protests both in and around Ashland.

Despite the peaceful clearing of the plaza by the Ashland Police Department on Oct. 31, the Occupy Ashland protest against economic inequality and corporate greed continues, as the nation-wide movement hits the two-month marker.

One of the many groups involved in the Occupy Ashland movement is Phronesis, a community organization started right here at Southern Oregon University in Oct. 2010 by a group of students with the specific goal of taking action to create social change. The word Phronesis is Greek in origin and is rooted in philosophy and being virtuous in one’s actions. In a joint email interview, Phronesis organizers Emery Way and Mollie Mustoe defined the organization’s name as, “the wisdom in determining the ends and the means of achieving them.”

According to Way and Mustoe, the Occupy Ashland movement has been “a struggle and a success.”

“The primary difficulty with the Occupy Ashland movement was bringing people together,” said Way and Mustoe. “We face a world that is determined to be in division because of the culture and society contexts we find ourselves within. People continuously forget that we are all facing the same issues, difficulties, and frustrations, and if we come together as a community we can better address these and thus better create change for them.”

Phronesis continues its involvement in events, including a gathering on Nov. 12, in the plaza from 9 a.m. to noon that will include music, forums and speakers. The Jackson County Fuel Committee will also be there, cutting wood for community members who cannot afford the high cost of heating as the temperature drops for the winter.

As a community-based organization, Phronesis has played a vital role in many events in Ashland over the past year. One example is the Billings Farm Garden Share project, a community garden aimed to provide access to quality food by helping low-income community members create and maintain a sustainable, healthy food source. One of Phronesis’ other recent successes was the defeat of the proposed exclusion zone for panhandling in Ashland.

Club members are also at work protesting the expansion of the Mount Ashland Ski Area. According to their brochure, “We continue to battle against the Mount Ashland Ski Expansion to protect our fragile watershed, which our city depends on for clean, drinking water.”

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend the weekly “dinnarchys,” or discussion potlucks, held Thursday evenings. Call the Phronesis hotline at 708-3737 or visit their Facebook page, “Phronesis,” for current locations and times. E-mail them at phronesisorg@gmail. com,  and explore their website, containing live streaming coverage of the Occupy movement, at www.phron.org.

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