Connecting Seas’ Writing to our Action Project

In Seas’ writing, Writing Ecologies, Rhetorical Epidemics, she connects theories that ultimately argues what leads to a cultural epidemic. The components that lead to this are the virus, host, environment, and time. This idea comes from Malcolm Gladwell. Right away it was clear that this “Cultural Epidemic” that Seas’ wrote about could be directly correlated activism and issues in todays culture. This is evident in the line, ” rhetoric by and large as an art of social influence that aims to achieve a desired goal (Seas, 51).” I like this line a lot, because not everyone is trying to create an uproar with their movement but everyone does want change of some sort. These components put together, if correctly displayed, creates a Tipping Point that could take the idea past all expectations.

The first component of this epidemic comes from the virus. It is just like a virus that we speak of when it comes to health. This virus spreads throughout the body and causes a movement of some sort. This rhetorical virus that is talked about in the reading intensifies the issue or agenda that someone is wanted to push. To create and push this virus one must create a platform with a rhetoric backbone. This would include stories or images that explain why the issue is important. In our project, our “virus” is the way DPS mistreats some of the students on campus. Within the first two presentations in class, we told stories and anecdotes that got the classes attention and proved that DPS does have it’s issues. Before our presentation, some people might not have realized what was going on or really why it was an issue. After reading the text, it is clear to understand that with a little rhetorical help, it is easy for certain messages to be spread throughout a community. This could be good if your platform is solid, but if it is not ready for the public, it could be detrimental and uphold no value at the end of the platform’s life span.

The second component of the Epidemic is the host. This is the frame in which your virus will take place. For us, it would be how we are presenting our issue to the stakeholder, Chief Muravchick. Our issue is very sensitive because we are basically telling people what they are doing wrong and telling them how to fix it. This is very hard to do because they are the “professionals” in this situation, but we are also the direct targets that the professionals are working with. The frame is an essential piece to the platform. It is very memorable and could ultimately create change. When we present our issue to our stakeholder, our frame would work best if it was a conversations. It would include people who come off as non-threatening to our stakeholder and his team. We will explain that students feel like a bother, or ultimately get reprimanded verbally by the staff of the department for being themselves. We will go on with the conversation to figure out how much they value the students well being and mental state. This will lead into if the staff gets a training on sensitivity. If performed the right way, we could see some huge improvements in our campus life.

The third part of the Epidemic would be the environment. Our environment is our campus. We are a very unique campus created of individuals with very different backgrounds. This will help us define our expectations of how we believe DPS should act that will ultimately affect not only their department but also our student life. We will also use our classroom as an environment to get feedback from to see if they feel the way we do and if our approaches will work so that we can move on. This will help us get a very successful outcome at the end of our project.

The final component to our Epidemic is the time. We have a very short period of time to work on an issue that could be very complex. But, do not get this confused with this project having to end when the class does. Our project involves everyone on campus. Our group of five are not the only ones that have to be advocates for this issue. After talking to Serenity, she mentioned that we might want to get in contact with an organization that could continue on our efforts after our group dismantles so that the Department would/could still be held responsible for their actions towards students.

Questions for Serenity

  1. What was your interaction with the Department when you were on campus?
  2. One of my friends mentioned that they had a “difficult conversation” workshop. Could you give us some highlights that you mentioned during it?
  3. Is there any sort of sensitivity training that could be enforced by the LPD for DPS, or does it have to be a joint effort?
  4. Does the LPD have to take any sensitivity training that you are aware of?
  5. Being the former Associate Dean of Diversity and International Student Experience, did you ever experience a time where students did not like how they were treated by DPS?

Deeper Research

Issue/Problem: Improving approachability between students on campus and the department of public safety on the campus of Transylvania University.

Identify target stakeholder:

Chief- He is the Director of Public Safety. His goal is to provide the best atmosphere and experience for the students. He believes that no matter what position an employee in the department holds, they are a family and are working towards this unified goal.

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Link to Quote

LPD- The Lexington Police Department is also a potential stakeholder because they perform a vast majority of the trainings that the Department has to go through. The Department of Public Safety is deputized by the Lexington Police, and should recieve comprehensive training from them. As of right now, our Department of Public Safety does not partake in any training that deals with sensitivity. This is an issue for our campus because we are so diverse.

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Link to Mission Statement

Strategies:

Conversation with Chief Muravchick

Ask for types of sensitivity trainings already in place so they can communicate effectively with students on campus. If not, provide them with information that they can have. This could involve formality checks to make sure the Officers are being approachable and responding appropriately with the best interest of the student in mind.

Steps:

  • Capitalize off current events from Friday (April 28, 2017).
    • Work on strengthening the relationship between DPS and the student body, so that the students feel confident that DPS will protect them as well as they did in such a dangerous situation
  • Suggest more ways of improvement.
    • Recognizing before criticising
    • Willingness to help no matter how small the issue is
    • Maintaining a strong relationship between DPS and students, and RA’s
    • An open forum where students can come and discuss with the department how the campus-DPS relationship has improved/can still improve. This will ensure constant improvement and change, keeping DPS up to date so that they can interact with the students most effectively
    • A comments box where members of the Transylvania community can voice their opinions about positive and negative concerns with the assurance that the complaints will be read and responded to

Questions/Concerns:

  • Our Stakeholders will not realize how serious the issue is.
  • Our Stakeholders will become defensive.
    • Both of the concerns just listed could result in the department not listening to our concerns and ultimately ignoring us during the presentation.
  • Our Stakeholders will listen, but not take action steps to solve this problem
  • Positive relationships with the Department of Public Safety would deteriorate if presented in an attacking manner.
  • In the light of the recent campus events, Marc Matthews has already suggested that DPS may not have the time to focus on this issue, and this opinion may be shared by the rest of the stakeholders. This could impede the process of getting this training, or even impede the process of gathering information about the training they already recieve.

Questions for Teddy

  1. A. Did your involvement with activism start when you came to campus or before? B. What specifically sparked your interest with activism on campus
  2. Have you ever had any issues with DPS that has caused you to want to do something about it? (even if you didn’t act upon it.)
  3. Do any tactics work better than others? Or, do they depend on the issue?

Activism on other campuses

When you first mention the word activism, it vividly strikes an image in my head. One of which involves forceful individuals causing havoc on a university over a topic that they feel very strongly about. But when you really stop and think about it, activism is so much more. Activism is as simple as writing a letter/signing a petition, using a hashtag on social media, or even carrying a mattress around campus. These forms of activism could be very harmless or harmful but the thought process needs to be well thought out. Harold Levy, the executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, believes “There’s a renaissance of political activism going on and it exists on every major campus.” It’s a US Undergraduate Movement, one that will continue to happen for a while longer. While this movement is going on, it is very interesting to study all of them individually to see what different schools are doing and how it improves the campus.

From when we were students in middle school, we were partaking in forms of activism whether we knew it or not. From signing petitions to creating a new sports team or fighting for open seating in the cafeteria, we wanted something and found ways to present the ideas. The majority of the time, it was on one kid that created a sheet, numbered it one through one hundred and got people to sign their names even if they didn’t know what the petition was for. This idea of petitions still exist as a form of activism on college campuses. In 2015, the Mizzou diversity protest struck an interest in students at the University of Alabama. A group of students, roughly 20-40, got together to create a document, “We Only Have One Demand”. This document was a collaborative piece of work that asked the University to acknowledge that racism exists on their campus. This letter requested the university to create an Office of Diversity, before the letter, it was the only SEC school that did not have one. The letter was given to President Bell around 8 a.m. one morning and after reading the letter invited students to gather and have an open dialogue about the issue of the lack of recognition of racism that exists on the campus of the University of Alabama.

Social media has also been a huge platform for this Undergraduate Movement we are currently having in the U.S. We live in a society is ran by technology and people are starting to figure out that sometimes, thats the only way people will listen. Hashtags such as #CanYouHearUsNow and #LiabilityOfTheMind have led activism at both Colgate University and The University of Chicago. In 2014, Republican John Thrasher was elected the President of Florida State University by the Board of Trustees. This raised many concerns from students and faculty of the University. Many believed the man was not fit to run the position because his lack of academic credentials. His supporters believed he  could help the University achieve their 1 Billion dollar Fundraiser goal. The opposers of Thrasher created trendy hashtags that raised awareness about FSU’s “bad” decision. #SlashThrasher, #FSUPrez, #Thrasher were common hashtags that were used when addressing the issue on social media. Although, protesters did not have to formally be a part of a group to get their platform out in society they banned together through a form of social media and used hashtags that could easily access other’s opinions on the topic. Hashtags have become a casual way for people to protest everyday.

The “not so common” way of activism that I came across was at Columbia University. Emma Sulkowicz started her movement in the fall of 2014 with her senior thesis, Mattress Performance (Carrying that Weight). In 2013, Sulkowicz filed a sexual harassment case with the University claiming that Paul Nungesser raped her. The University ultimately declared that Nungesser was not guilty resulting in no charges. Sulkowicz went on to file a report with the New York Police Department but decided not to pursue it because it would have went on past her graduation date at the University. Instead, she created a silent but significant protest everywhere she went. Sulkowicz carried a mattress everywhere she went on campus to protest against the school allowing the alleged rapist to stay on campus. She even carried it across the stage when she graduated along with the help of two supporters. Although her protest was not loud or harming any other students, her platform was well delivered.

After researching these forms of activism, it seems like a more subtle approach can create a greater more positive outcome for the activists. I have also recognized that administrators have mixed emotions about activism and protests. They want the students to be think freely and grow as a person but it also threatens the control the institution has, which can be troubling for administrators. So the tactics that make up your form of activism can really make or break the outcome you are searching for. On a campus like Transylvania, a less aggressive tactic might be better.

http://www.cw.ua.edu/article/2015/11/students-protest-at-rose-administration

http://www.businessinsider.com/fsu-president-john-thrasher-2014-9

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/05/the-renaissance-of-student-activism/393749/

Individual Research Blog: Response to Heller’s Essay

Heller’s essay was very eye opening to the issue of student activism on a liberal arts campus, specifically Oberlin. As I began reading the article, I quickly realized I was not fully informed on Oberlin College and felt I needed to research more on the college before reading the article. Oberlin is a little over twice the size of Transylvania’s campus. Both are known for their rich history. Throughout this article there were certain parts that stood out to me and really made me think about my experience at Transylvania and the project we are currently working on. I think we are a part of a campus that some groups are open to change and activism and others are not.

“The Fear in class isn’t getting something wrong but having your voice rejected.” This statement was very eye opening to me because I think it is a very true and raw statement. Even on a campus as open as ours, I still feel this way sometimes. In our current classroom, I feel free to speak my opinion and not fear rejection. Outside of the comfort of our classroom, my opinion changes. Even though we are only a few days into the class, one of my main concerns with my group project, is the fear of being rejected by our stakeholders, such as Chief Muravchick and his staff. If these people are offended they will ultimately reject everything we are saying and then who knows where the project or even my relationship with them will go from there.

One of our main focus points with our group project is that DPS seems to not be aware of sensitivity. This is very alarming because they are on campus to protect us but when they are belittling the students that ask for help, what good are they really doing? As our group continued to ponder on the demeaning actions of the department, it really bothered me. Some of the stories could possibly be on the verge of Title IX violations and that is very concerning. But, while reading the article I realized that Title IX violations happen everywhere. Although, this is not anywhere close to acceptable it is also a little relieving to know that we aren’t the only place these issues take place. The article addressed a professor that had been on campus for multiple years and made one statement that conflicted with Title IX and ultimately changed the way the campus viewed him and he viewed the administration at the College.

The article wraps up with an interview of Mike Krislov. Krislov is the fourteenth president of Oberlin College. During his interview it is clear that he wants the absolute best for not only the students, but also the faculty and staff of Oberlin. He states, ” I want to have a dialogue”. I think this line will be very important and something we need to keep in mind while going through this term. Because our topic can be so sensitive, we need to have a dialogue with our stakeholders instead of a lecture about their flaws. Our group is here to help the Department recognize the students concerns and issues so that we can grow as a campus.

This article pointed out the scary truth about campuses and the way they feel about activism. Many different parts could be tied to our campus, class, and project but I pointed out the important parts. I really enjoyed reading this article because Oberlin has many similarities to Transylvania and I feel like we have people on campus that could give very similar testimonies to some of the interviewees. This article also will help throughout the drafting process because it gives key points that we need to keep in mind as a group including how we need to address our stakeholders and that issues can happen anywhere.

Stakeholder Investigation Assignment

  • With our project to update the sensibility and relationship between DPS and students would be to identify our Stakeholders that we need to target so that we can create a change on campus. I would consider our group to have four primary Stakeholders, President Seamus Carey, Dean Michael Covert, Dr. Holly Sheilly,  Ashley Hinton-Moncer,  and Chief Gregg Muravchick. These would be Primary Stakeholders because of their position and authority they have on campus. Outside of our Primary Stakeholders it would also be beneficial to include the entire Department of Public Safety, the RA’s on campus along with Hannah Piechowski, and several faculty and staff.
  • With our Primary Stakeholders there would be a chain of command that needs to be followed. The officers that make up DPS would first report to Chief Muravchick. Chief would then report to Ashley Hinton-Moncer, if he had any title nine concerns or issues with the training in our proposal. If he would not have any issues, he would then report to Dean Michael Covert or Dr. Holly Sheilly. This is because   Dean Covert is the Dean of Students and Dr. Holly Sheilly is the Vice President of Student Enrollment and Student Life. Also, Ashley Hinton-Moncer would report to Dean Covert or Dr. Holly Sheilly and relate any issues she has seen/heard about DPS mistreatment on campus. Dean Covert and Dr. Sheilly would then report to the President. As of right now our other potential Stakeholders, RA’s, Hannah Piechowski, and a group of faculty and staff, would be very important to the process, but I do not know where they would fit into the chain of command. I picture them as extra sets of eyes that could possibly report to Dean Covert.
  • I think many of our Stakeholders will find this information shocking or information  that they already have heard depending on their level of interaction with students. I have talked to some faculty that were very shocked to find out that students on campus have had issues with the Department of Public Safety when it comes to simple things they could help you with. I have also come in contact with some faculty that have heard these concerns before by other students. When we propose this idea to Chief Muravchick and his staff, we need to make our intent very clear. We are doing this in favor of our students and campus not to discriminate against Chief and his Department.
  • The majority of our concerns would come from the DPS staff. They could easily feel targeted and then block out everything we say. In their minds, they believe they are doing the very best for our campus. This is evident in the way they continue to do the things they do. As a student, I believe they have good qualities about them and that they benefit this campus but in some areas, such as sensitivity, they lack tremendously. This ultimately hurts their relationship with students on campus and dissolves the lack of trust between the two. DPS’ goal is to assist us and to keep us safe, if we attack them and they become offended this could result in them slacking on the job and the safety of our students would decrease. The department has never acted on this issue before because they are unaware or do not care that what they are doing hurts students. Also, a sense of laziness in some of the offers could trigger a negative attitude to help a student when they are in need.
  • Personally, my only concern would be the Department becoming offended and disregarding everything we have to say. We have very valuable information and concerns but if it is presented the wrong way, it would ultimately hurt us and our reputation with not only the department but all of the stakeholders involved. This could be very damaging to everyone in my group. Currently, I have a positive relationship with the Department and I would like it to stay the same. But I am working on this project because I believe they have some work to be done. I really hope that they can all be adults and listen to our proposal and seriously consider it while also not taking it personally against myself and the other individuals in my group.
  • A risk that might arise with the stakeholders would have to do with the stories we have heard from students that have been on our campus. These stories are public information since they shared them with us but not many people might not know about it until our presentation. At it’s worst, this could cause backlash on the Department and possibly an investigation done by campus figures that would determine if these men are suitable for the job.
  • Personally, I have a positive relationship with the Department so I could be at risk for relationship to take a turn for the worst. Under no circumstances, do I personally want to damage my relationship with the Department. Like stated above, sometimes they do their job great, like our most recent incident on campus but other times it seems like they don’t even care. There is very little consistency within the department and this is where our platform derives from. I also have a good relationship with Dr. Holly Sheilly, I have gotten to know her through the athletics here at Transylvania and also had the opportunity to work with her on a project I had last semester. If this presentation is presented professionally and with poise, I can truthfully say that I would not offend her to where our relationship would be tested. I am not wanting to ruin any of my relationships here on campus, and if at any time I feel like that could happen, I will voice my opinion because I do not believe our issues and stance for this project should hinder me in form or fashion.

Pitch Proposal

  1. Explanation of your issue and why it is important
    1. Lack of reliability with the Department of Public Safety on Campus. It is important because DPS is a huge key for our current students to FEEL safe just as much as being safe. Unfortunately, there is very little reliability with DPS. I see them patrol campus but that is to the extent of what I see them do. When I have had an issue in the past, I will call my friends before DPS because I feel like I am “bothering them” and as a student I should not feel this way.  
  2. Explanation of how change or progress on your issue is feasible by the end of May Term.
      1. Transy’s Department of Public Safety currently has 19 Staff members including Full Time Sworn Armed Peace Officers, Security Officers, Dispatchers, Administrative Assistant, and Part time Sworn Armed Peace Officers. The department is also available 24 hours a day and has programs set up like Text a Tip, T-Alert and Emergency Numbers that students can contact. Because of this, the issue has already had a jump start on the process. The issue could be solved if we made the staff aware of how the student body feels about them and train them on ways to be presentable and approachable to the student body.
  3. Why your classmates should choose your project
      1. This issue should create a spark in all of you because whether you live on campus or not, they contribute to making your experience a safe one. This is an issue that could ultimately change the campus idea of what DPS is and how they can actually help. I think it is safe to say that right now, the Department as a whole has a negative connotation to it and the officers being “lazy” and that needs to change.