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Posts tagged ‘Campus Spotlight’
By Joanna Woodson, Student, and Lane Perry, Director, Center for Service Learning, Western Carolina University (N.C.)
In early 2016, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and Campus Vote Project brought their organizations to Western Carolina University (WCU) in hopes of attracting civically-inclined students as fellows. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, these two organizations were catalysts which set off a university-wide push to organize, mobilize, and Get Out The Vote. Though many folks have seen the tip of the iceberg, they do not realize this movement took months of researching, planning, observing, and lobbying—and those actions still only scratch the surface.
An example demonstrating the tenacity, expertise, and intentionality of the Student Democracy Coalition (SDC) is captured by the specialized approach to establishing an on-campus early voting polling location on campus. Initially, the Jackson County Board of Elections was approached to determine the process for establishing an early voting polling place—it was immediately clear that there was no step-by-step process. In this moment there were two options—establish the process or move on. History will show that the SDC chose the far more complex pathway of establishing the process.
To establish the process which would lead to the university’s first polling location, the SDC leadership informally approached the Jackson County Board of Elections and the upper-administration of WCU to gauge the desires of each. They then developed a petition and obtained over 1,000 student and community signatures in support of the on-campus polling place. With the signed petition in hand, formal requests were made to WCU upper-administration, local state representatives and senators from differing political affiliations, and other key constituent groups to support the request.
Simultaneously, the SDC leadership had been attending Board of Elections meetings to learn and demonstrate symbolically the commitment to this request. This public request was intentionally structured to speak about the value of an on-campus polling place for students, to showcase three different party student representatives (Democrats, Republicans, and Independents), and to illustrate the desire of the university as a whole. While this is simply a thumbnail sketch of a yearlong effort, it demonstrates the SDC’s commitment to understand and interpreting policy, building and funneling capacity, and putting civic heads and hearts into action!
This was an exciting time leading up to the election, but soon after November 8th the team had to ask one another, “What about after the election?”. What happens when newly-elected officials and their policies continue developing into 2017? The architecture for on-campus civic engagement, which had been so carefully crafted, is still standing but the students seem to be burned out on politics. The whole team is quick to admit that it, too, has been exhausted.
However, the SDC team persisted and found innovative ways to engage students in a new political climate. It was clear that some aspects of the previous semester’s model would no longer be relevant, and the SDC broke down the old method of Register, Educate, Activate (i.e. ballot casting), in order to reevaluate what students would show up for in the spring. Students decided that in the wake of this divisive election, strategic advocacy would replace activation, education would become more expansive, and registration would operate as a supporting actor between the other two components.
The advocacy and educational work was thrilling this spring. North Carolina is a compelling place to live and study, full of interesting policies, and though sometimes frustrating, it does provide for the perfect learning laboratory for 21st century democracy . Students of diverse political backgrounds came together to attend, observe, and learn from smaller political organizing opportunities across North Carolina, as well as the National Women’s March on Washington during the semester. At these events students were able to network with representatives and even help lead change on issues like juvenile prison reform in North Carolina.
These moments of simple clarity we have valued this semester, because it most certainly has not been an easy task carrying on with the same spirit after the election. The negativity felt by students in the days afterward doused the momentum and spirit the organization felt in the months leading up to November. It seemed that regardless of for whom one voted, no one was satisfied once the ballots were counted. It’s a difficult thing to admit that our team had to slow down after experiencing such a powerful start in 2016. But, as life is unpredictable, there were important lessons to be gleaned from it. Whether or not individuals want to carry on, democracy requires strength and motion.
Simply stated, by engaging in democracy you shape democracy. This profound concept is equal to the time, energy, and heart individuals put into it. This forward movement is the blueprint for the future, particularly as the future of the SDC is developed to take over next semester. After May of this year, the last of the original members of the coalition will go on to their next phases of life. It is challenging to let go in order for the next generation of leaders to take over something which has been cherished for so long. But that is life at its core, and onward we must march toward a better tomorrow.
RIGHT TO THE CITY – CURTIS BAY: COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT THROUGH A MOBILE APP EXPLORATORY SESSION BY BUS
Right to the City – Curtis Bay: Community Engagement through a Mobile App Exploratory Session by Bus | Sponsored by Towson University
Anthropology students and faculty at Towson University along with the United Workers-Free Your Voice have been working on a participatory action research project with high-school students in environmental science classes to qualitatively study the environmental hazards in South Baltimore. Curtis Bay, Maryland is located in the southern portion of the City of Baltimore, Maryland. The neighborhood is located in a highly industrialized waterfront area in the southern part of the city and receives its name from the body of water to the east of which it sits. The area has had a toxic history.
Historic Sediments of Global Trade
During the 19th century, guano fertilizer from Peru was a prized commodity, particularly around the Chesapeake bay where both cotton and tobacco had drained the soil of its nutrients. Guano imports which migrated through and often remained in Curtis Bay initiated a long period of uneven disposal of hazardous and/or toxic materials in the soils, air, and bodies of residents.
Prudential Oil Corporations in 1914 established a refinery in the middle of the Peninsula. Texas Oil Company of Delaware was established before the end of WWI. By the end of 1918, the Fairfield Peninsula was home to at least three petroleum product refineries and several fertilizer plants. Oil refining exposes the surrounding community to the risk of intense explosions while coal dust exacerbates lung and cardiovascular diseases.
Shipbuilding, Ship Breakdown in a Postindustrial wasteland
The Wartime efforts in the 1940s to manufacture materials needed to fortify American troops affected Curtis Bay. During this period, thousands of workers from WVA and elsewhere in Appalachia and African Americans migrated to Fairfield Peninsula for jobs in the shipbuilding and other emergent wartime industries. White workers received decent government subsidized housing while Blacks continued to be exiled to Old Fairfield only having access to substandard housing. The memories of expansive capitalism, exploitative laboring relations, race/class based discrimination, and toxicity do not simply linger as a historic artifact but rather continue to define how this landscape is viewed in Baltimore.
The Next Step in Curtis Bay’s Steady Decline into Toxicity
In 2009, Energy Answers announced it would build the nation’s largest trash-to-energy incinerator in Fairfield and presented the project as a solution to two crises: the waste crisis and the energy crisis. Energy Answers International promoted the project as a power plant providing schools and other facilities with “green energy.” The incinerator was originally slated to be sited less than a mile from Benjamin Franklin High School and Curtis Bay Elementary, which state environmental regulations wouldn’t have typically allowed (no incinerator can be built that close to a school). However, when the Public Service Commission approved the incinerator as an energy plant.*
Seize this opportunity to explore the Curtis Bay Area and the social justice work with Nicole Fabricant, Matthew Durington, and Samuel Collins, Ph.D.s, Associate Professors, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Towson University along with the students and community agencies.
*For more on the Campaign to bring to an end the Trash to Energy Incinerator, See https://stoptheincinerator.wordpress.com/
#CLDE17 Quick Links
ADP in the News is a compilation of brief updates about American Democracy Project (ADP) activities at participating colleges and universities and is a semi-regular news feature on our blog. Below you will find the latest edition of this series.
If you have an ADP event you’d like posted in this format, please email email@example.com.
IUSB’s ADP hosts Forums Designed to Help Identify ‘Fake News’
IUSB’s ADP along with St. Joseph County Public Library is hosting a Civic Leadership Academy over six consecutive Wednesdays starting March 22nd. Events are free and open to the public and speakers will include academics, political advisers, journalists, activists and politicians. Find more information, including specific topics here.
Georgia College ADP Events
Every Wednesday at noon, the Georgia College ADP organizes a Times Talk and the fist one of every month focuses on issues of diversity, equality and inclusion. On March 15, the talk is: Africa, Europe and Genocide: The German Genocide in Namibia and the Case for Reparations” facilitated by Dr. Aran MacKinnon and hosted by Dr. Jan Hoffman-Clark. The source article is “Germany Grapples With Its African Genocide,” and the link can be found here. Join the conversation via Twitter using #gctimestalk. Learn more here.
“How to Become an Engaged Citizen” was a brown bag discussion in the campus Black Box Theatre on Feb. 21, 2017 led by guest speakers: Dr. Jan Clark, associate professor of rhetoric; Dr. Stephanie McClure, professor of sociology and Andrew Robinson, president of the American Democracy Project at Georgia College. The discussion contextualized the Theatre and Dance Department production of “Green Day’s American Idiot.” Learn more here.
UNK Students Present Civic Projects
University of Nebraska at Kearney students will present their civic engagement projects during UNK Talks in early April. UNK Talks are organized by UNK ADP and are inspired by TED Talks. Learn more here.
AP Quotes MTSU ADP Campus Coordinator and Former Student
Middle Tennessee State University’s ADP Campus Coordinator Mary Evins and former student Brendon Holloway are quoted in an ADP News Brief on “As incivicliy hits new depths, many are working to combat it.” Read more here and here.
Illinois State University’s ADP Talk focuses on Power of Protest
A March 8th talk by Patrice McMahon focused on the power of protests and movement building. McMahon is an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and presented “The Power of Partnerships: Transnational Organizations and Global Women’s Empowerment.” Learn more here.
Ferris State ADP’s Political Engagement Project: “From Russia, with Love”
A “Trump and Putin: A Permanent Reset in U.S. – Russian Relations” event was part of the Political Engagement Project’s “Passion for the Past” series and was hosted Tuesday, Feb. 21. Elena Gavrilova and Olga Zinnurova, who are professors at Kazan Federal University, joined Ferris history professors Tracy Busch and Christian Peterson in the panel. The Russian guests had their thoughts translated by Ferris adjunct English professor Lilia Caserta. Learn more here.