Care2 at SxSWedu
Last week, I headed down to the Lone Star state to sit on a Care2 panel at South By Southwest Edu. You see, Care2 is really good at on-campus activism. With the help of student activists, we have been known to make some real changes on University Campuses (see the BYU and Skidmore campaigns). So we set out to tell the administrators, educators and support staff at SxSWedu how they can avoid the kind of trouble that on-campus activism causes for them.
Having been on the front lines of the campaign to get BYU to offer amnesty from their honor code for victims of sexual assault – a policy which should have been implemented a long time ago – I told them my thought process in applying pressure to the BYU powers that be. We had a petition, organized a delivery/rally, got tons of press, called constantly, got donors and alumni to pledge not to donate or send their kids to school there and most importantly, we didn’t give up until we got what we wanted.
Then Valerie talked about her campaign to get Skidmore University to offer better mental health care for students. She explained that her cause was escalated slowly. After being turned away from the counseling center during a panic attack, Valeria set out to get meetings with the President to ask for better services and when he ignored her, she started a petition on Care2, then organized a rally with the help of one of Care2’s professional organizers and got tons of local press. And again, she didn’t give up until Skidmore made the changes she was looking for.
The story was the same in both campaigns: listen to your students, do what is best for them and you won’t have embarrassing rallies on your campus!
Then Joe fielded some questions from the audience. Here is what they wanted to know and what we told them:
Q: How can administrators, educators, and other university staff be allies to student advocates without risking their jobs.
A: Anonymity is your friend, you don’t have to publicly support to help. Tell students fighting for what you know to be right and in their best interest where to apply pressure within the University system. Universities tend to be opaque-ish organizations, so giving students insight into who the decision makers actually are is invaluable.
Q: How can I avoid this at my university?
A: Listen to your students in the first place. Open a dialogue before they feel like they have to go public with the issue.
Q: How does Care2 help student activists?
A: Hello! Activist University here. A full-fledged educational tool just for this purpose. Also, we provide everything from a boost on social media to one on one coaching with one of our professional organizers to help in reaching out to media in their area. Students are young and new at activism. We teach them how to organize and make their voices heard! Of course, we can’t help each and every petition author, but we can help quite a few!
All in all, we had a blast in Austin! The weather was warm and the people were passionate. So fun to talk Activist University to University folks.