Our presentation was relatively unique among those given in class due to the fact that our proposal has already been more or less agreed upon by our stakeholders. This not only meant that our proposal was more simplified and contained less information than some of the others, but it also meant that it was harder for the class to give us feedback. Nevertheless, we did receive some valuable feedback which will help us in finalizing the details of our project.
First, the reaction to the proposed survey confirmed that it is not something we really need to move forward. We had already thought this might be the case, but since everyone else also thought so as well solidified that idea for us. While a survey might be useful in the future, it is not currently necessary. Furthermore, it is not feasible to advertise a survey and receive an adequate number of responses in the three days we have before our formal presentation. Due to all of these factors, we have decided not to conduct a formal survey at this time.
The other major piece of feedback that we gained from the class was the inclusion of SAB. Again, this was something that we had already discussed, but having it brought up in class once again reinforced our thoughts. While we do not exactly need SAB’s formal approval, we obviously want them on board with this proposal, as it will make everything much easier and affects them. We have since extended an invitation to SAB’s entire (2017-2018) executive board to attend Thursday’s formal proposal in order to give their feedback.
In addition, Hannah is planning to contact existing (informal) Independent leadership to obtain their input. There are currently informal groups on campus and we feel that it is important to get their opinion and suggestions on the subject since they know more of the details of what already exists, what would be helpful, and what would not be well received by the Independent community.
One of the things that makes our proposal unique is that it does not necessarily include argumentation for our project. While we lay out the problems that exist in the status quo in order to show that a change is necessary, we do not address potential counter arguments or use combative language in regards to our proposal. This is because our stakeholders have already agreed in principle to our idea and Thursday’s meeting will just make things official. This makes our job a lot easier, and eliminates a lot of potential concerns that other groups face. Overall, we feel as though our project is in very good shape.
Our writing center workshop was very insightful, at least as far as having someone else to discuss ideas with and get suggestions. It is always nice to have someone who has not heard them before listen to your proposal and tell you what they think. We have been working on this so exclusively that it can be hard to lose sight of whether or not our proposals have improved or not. This meeting helped us feel as though they have.
The workshop helped us feel as though we are in pretty good shape in regards to our project. Just having that confirmation is helpful. It can be difficult for us to tell if we are making enough progress while we are in the middle of the project so making sure we are where we need to be made us feel a lot better about where we are. While we are by no means finished, knowing that we are not horribly behind is always nice.
One thing that we did learn we need to improve is our written product. While many of our ideas are scattered throughout blog posts, we did not yet have a firm outline of what we are trying to accomplish and what we need to do to accomplish it. This is something that is useful to have not only for ourselves but also to show others who are curious about our project, making it a valuable and even necessary tool.
We have already begun working on this outline and are continuing to improve it. Right now it features fairly broad points where we can put more information as we get it. The first three of the points on the outline are fairly settled. The last point is more up in the air. We will add more to this point following our meeting with Hunter and Michelle, but for now it at least gives and idea of what exactly our project is attempting to do.
As of right now, our outline is:
- Lack of representation for Indy students
Input by students
End Goal/ Purpose
Possible solutions/ How to get to goal
- Student Organization vs. What?
One of the biggest things that I took from this reading is that rhetoric is a living, ever evolving thing. Not only does rhetoric change over time, but it changes based on the target audience. For example, the type of rhetoric that was used thirty years ago is different than what is used now. As society changes and evolves so does the rhetoric that is acceptable. It also means that the types of rhetoric someone uses around their friends is hopefully different than what they would use around the president of the university.
This is something that will be very valuable for us to be aware of in this class. Since we are dealing with people in a position of power we need to be sure that we are using the appropriate rhetoric. We need to strike the perfect balance of being respectful but still ensuring that we get our point across. Being respectful and using the rhetoric that their positions deserve will help establish a positive relationship and therefore make it easier for us to get what we want.
The environment we are in should also have an impact on our rhetoric. Relating somewhat to the last point, everyone in this class is a student and therefore is put on somewhat of a lower level than faculty and staff. As such we need to be careful that we do not overstep our perceived limits and risk offending people. While overstepping one’s limits may end up being necessary, doing so from the start again makes it hard to accomplish your goal.
On the other hand, our environment is also a liberal arts institution where we are told to question everything. This means that faculty and staff should welcome challenges to the status quo from students as that means that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to. While this is certainly not always the case and many people will oppose potential change regardless of what they claim, it should give us more freedom to question things than say at job where we are just supposed to be doing what the boss says.
The final key part about living rhetoric is about networks. Networks are key in both biology and in society. Understanding a network not only means having the connections to get your message where it needs to go, but following the network in the right order. For example, Hannah and I’s project may end up having to go to Dean Covert for approval. However, since it relates to student involvement we are going to Michelle Thompson and Hunter Williams first. If we had gone straight to Dean Covert they may have felt slighted and become opposed to our proposal based only on that fact. Audience is a key part of rhetoric, and combing that with the idea of a network means talking to the right people at the right time, which is key to getting anything done.
Currently Transylvania is about 53% Greek and 47% Independent. This means that almost half the student body has chosen not to join a fraternity or sorority. Despite this there is no formal leadership or method of communication for that group of students. This has led to them feeling disenfranchised by the university in several ways.
Independent students are not afforded many of the opportunities that Greek students receive. There are not as many Independent events, whether those events be formals, service projects, or just movie watches. It is hard for Independent students to organize such events without leadership or means of communication. Even when such events to exist, many Indy students do not hear about them since there is no good means of communication. While there is some Independent leadership, it is completely tied to whether or not older students are willing to step up and take on this role. If there are none, then that leadership does not exist.
Since our project deals with forming some sort of student group, our primary stakeholders will be Hunter Williams and Michelle Thompson. Since they work in student involvement, they will be the ones who would need to approve changes to the current systems. They will also be able to guide us concerning what exactly needs to be done to set up some form of representation. We may also deal with Dean Covert and Dr. Sheilley in order to gain approval for something like this to exist. Michelle and Hunter will also be able to tell us if we need to go above them for approval.
Our next step is to meet with Hunter Williams and/or Michelle Thompson to ask questions about previous attempts with similar goals and their suggestions for moving forward. We also want to clarify what exactly we would need to formally establish whether it be a student organization or something else. We feel that we need their input on our next steps, since we believe that they are the ones who can make the project actually work.
We also want to communicate more with the Independent community in order to get their opinions on our proposal and see if they have any other suggestions. However, getting their feedback is somewhat difficult due to the lack of communication that causes these problems in the first place. Despite this we do feel that we can get at least some feedback from Independent students on the difficulties they face. Having data or stories from the Independent community to show Hunter and Michelle will make our proposal seem more legitimate.
We have set up a survey to get people’s thoughts. Please click here for the link.
What do you think the most effective form of student activism is? Is this different at Transy?
What are some common mistakes that are made?
What are some useful tactics in raising issues to the administration?
What are some problems you’ve seen addressed successfully at Transy?
What are some things you’ve seen fail at Transy?
I am always interested to read about activism on other campuses, both in what they are doing and what the results are. It seems as though the forms of activism seem to vary based on what type of school it is at (based on both size and location) and what issue is being dealt with. Yet there still seems to be basic similarities and all kinds of activism and what kinds are effective.
As we discussed in class, I believe that attempting to work with those in power is the most effective way to enact change. Most people are much more willing to make changes if they are treated like allies rather than enemies. By trying to work with those in charge you are painting them as people you trust and believe can and will do a good job. You are then trying to give them suggestions and help them rather than attacking them as some forms of activism do.
On the other end of this spectrum are types of activism that do go after those in charge directly instead of attempting to work with them. This is generally done in the form of protests. While protesting is by no means always a negative, it should be viewed as more of a last resort option due to the fact that when you attack someone it causes them to go on the defensive and make them less receptive to potential change.
The very nature of protests also requires them to achieve a high level of attention or make some sort of substantial impact in order to be effective. While this has become easier in the social media age where anything can gain traction with the help of Facebook or Twitter, it is still not a sure thing at all. Protests can absolutely be a valuable weapon if those in charge are unwilling to make changes, but it is not the first thing that people should jump to.
Casey Smith of College USA Today writes about how today’s college students are the most activist generation since the Vietnam War. This shows that at the very least the passion for trying to make changes exists on college campuses. Despite this it seems as though not much is getting done. The article talks about how sexual assaults have been a major focus of student activism, yet still remains a major problem on college campuses. This may show that students are not taking the correct approach to this issue and may want to try working with their administrations to make changes rather than jumping into protests. While this may not always works, it seems to me like it is worth a shot.