Seas Article Blog Post

So, I haven’t yet taken any rhetoric classes despite being a WRC major.  The crash course in class helped, but I still feel that I was missing the point of the text to some extent as a result.  I made do, but I’m probably not getting the intent of the article.

Seas mentions the theory that trends, changes, and activism follow a path similar to an epidemic.  Unlike an epidemic, these are not necessarily a bad thing.  Apparently, we can harness the “epidemic” to further our activism.  Seas finds the argument that we can control the flow of ideas and make something catch on dubious at best.  However, Seas does not suggest throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  She thinks that some of the ideas are valid, just not all of them.  

She mentions framing, by bringing up the example of different methods of getting people to recycle aluminum foil by framing it differently for different demographics.  I think that this is something that we can borrow.  Actually, we have discussed this somewhat already.  How do we finesse a situation.  Choosing our words carefully includes paying attention to what will convince someone.  Obviously, going to our stakeholders and telling them that they aren’t taking care of Indy students and asking if they even care about them wouldn’t be the best way to frame our concerns.  My dad loves the word finesse and he usually couples it with the phrase “be assertive without being rude.”  I think this applies here. 

I’m not sure how much help some of this is.  We are trying to get input from Indy students, but we are trying to get a system in place before we can really do much.  The communication system is the end goal, so it can’t exactly be part of the way to get to the goal.  I guess our network is us and the stakeholders, but I think that in a perfect world, more Indy students would be part of the network.  

Maybe we can use the epidemic model next year if we get this project actually started.  I feel that it is more about convincing a group of something than just convincing the stakeholders.  I’m trying to look at this project long-term.  The goal is to create a group that won’t fall apart when the senior leadership graduates.  We want a stable system of some sort to keeps Indy students from falling through the cracks.  But, to make this work, we will need to get a strong group of Indys to serve on a board/comittee and organize it.  So, more group effort will be required to make the group run rather than just get permission to get it started (which is more the scope of this project in the limited time we have).

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Questions for Monday, May 8th

Given you experience at Transy, what forms of activism to you think are most useful here?

Do you think Transy students are often involved in activism?  Do you think we should be more involved?

If someone is just beginning to get involved in activism, where would you suggest they start?

Are you personally involved in activism?  If so, what kind and with what results?

Does your current position get you involved with activism?

How did you end up at the Lexington Police after working at Transy?  It seems like a bit of a jump.

Questions for Thursday, May 3rd

How and why did you become interested in activism?

What forms of activism are most practical for use at Transy?  Are there any that you would recommend avoiding?

How much time do you put into activism regularly and how do you balance this with school?

If someone is just starting to be involved in activism, where would you recommend they begin?

Was activism something you and your family did or something you participated in during high school or was it something you found at college?

What change are you most proud of?

How much do you work with other people and if so, how do you coordinate these efforts?

What subjects (of activism) are you most interested in?

Have you ever participated in activism off campus?

Is it realistic to borrow other college’s methods for activism for our project?

I did a little reading on the internet about activism on college campuses today.  Students are participating in activism at higher rates than have been since the late 1960’s.  A USA Today article wondered if we are in “the golden age of activism.”  Unsurprisingly, most of the activism on various campuses within recent years involves either race related issues or sexual assault/ rape or occasionally finances (i.e. student debt, jobs, etc.).  The most obvious forms of activism seems to be protests, sit-ins, die-ins, boycotts, etc.  The most unique was a five day hunger strike by several students who wished to support janitors on campus who were being laid off.  Ultimately, the students were forced to back down somewhat, but it was still by far more interesting than the other incidents.   Transy students seem to not resort to extreme techniques like these, but perhaps this may be because we have not put in a position to need to use these methods recently.  

Anyway,  these forms of activism are the obvious ones- the ones that get talked about and make the national news.  “Little” forms of activism don’t get discussed as much and are more difficult to research.  I think that this sort is just as important.  One article that I read commented that students are using “proper” channels such as meetings, petitions, and formal requests to voice their concerns when possible.  I think this is especially the case at Transy.  Paperwork and meetings don’t photograph as well for news articles as well as protests, signs, and sit-ins do.  

I honestly don’t think that the overly visible, in your face, forms of activism will be helpful for our project unless other methods completely fail -and even then, it would require serious evaluation to determine if the end goal is really worth the burned bridges on a small campus as we discussed earlier today.  At this moment, our goal is to create a university sanctioned, student lead committee at least partially outside of the normal structures for student organizations (our vision is more akin to SGA or SAB than the various clubs on campus).  The plan is to build bridges between various groups on campus- not burn bridges as protests would.  So, much of the information out there about how other colleges “do” student activism isn’t all that helpful for Donovan and I.  This isn’t to say that protests and sit-ins are a bad idea, but just that it is not a practical option in this instance.  

Response to Heller

I’m not quite sure what to make of Heller’s article, “The Big Uneasy: What’s roiling the liberal arts campus.”  It is difficult for me to completely agree with him.  Much of what he says is true: activism on campus is different than it was 20 years ago, much less than it was 50 years ago.  

What he said about a disconnect between the generations that participated in activism in the Vietnam War era and students today is also true.  Today, students are looking at activism differently than before.  We tend to embrace our differences and want special treatment for them rather than asking to be treated strictly equally.  I should point out that I don’t mean this in a negative way necessarily, but that the point of activism is different that what we may read in a history book or hear from older professors.  

I also agreed with his comments about how liberals using the tactics they are using for activism on campus seems to borrow more from conservatives than liberals.  

Honestly, I cannot understand some of the activism myself.  I struggle to understand why we can’t just live in the present and exhibit contentment as much as possible.  To some extent, I feel like too much activism is a waste of time.  I came to college to obtain a degree, so I could get a job, so I can take care of myself.  Obviously, there are other reasons, too, but this was very high on my list!  For me, college is a means to an end and part of me just wants to be done with school so I can get on with real life.  What I didn’t really plan to do was to set the world on fire.  

Maybe now is the best moment for me to confess that this class really didn’t sound like my cup of tea at all, but was the only class I qualified for that would be useful for me.  This is not to say that I am not enjoying this class, but instead point out that I was not originally sold on the idea.  I have since come around to the idea, but rocking the boat isn’t really my style.  

This said, the topic I ended up with is a good fit for me.  It isn’t too politically motivated and has long term benefits for all Transy students.  I guess I just don’t like confrontations, despite my argumentative nature (I like winning and am extremely competitive, but dislike the stress associated with unnecessary disagreement.)  However, representation of Indy students is remarkably like the subjects Heller discusses.  
I have rambled far more than I intended.  I suppose the short version is that Heller’s article left me conflicted.  I agree that activism has changed, but I see little point in most activism.  Furthermore, activism as described by Heller seems somewhat unfounded and places well-intentioned individuals in difficult situations (such as the professor accused of berating a student and the need for a disclaimer on an ancient text when anyone with the internet could find such information for themselves if necessary or making the administration choose between keeping two minority groups.)  I am left wondering- is activism really what we need or is it what is polarizing this country?  

Stakeholder Investigation

Last Thursday, Donovan and I felt that Dean Covert, Ashley Hill, Hannah Piechowski, Hunter Williams, and the Student Involvement Office as a whole were the Stakeholders most involved with our project.  We found them by looking up the Transy student life staff online.
Michael Covert is the Dean of Students.  As this relates to campus life, I believe that our topic comes under his jurisdiction.
I’m not sure how related Ashley Hill is to the situation as Director of Student Wellbeing, but she seems to be involved (currently or in the past) in several departments around Transy.  I think even if she can’t help us directly, she would be a good resource.
As Assistant Director of Residence Life and Housing, I believe that Hannah Piechowski may not directly be responsible for the sort of committee that we plan to implement, but that she can help us with feasibility and so forth
Hunter Williams is the Director of Campus and Community Engagement and Michelle Thompson is the Assistant Director.  This seems the most related to the subject of creating an advisory committee for Indy students.
On the Student Life webpage, the department suggests that they value student centered communication and collaboration.  Our plan would increase the input of students that are not as strongly represented and increase communication between Indy students, Greek students, and school officials.
There are some risks involved with this.  Someone mentioned to me that something like this was attempted to be set up a year or two ago and that the Greek students shot the idea down.  This is partly why I have tried to make it clear that this is not meant to supplant Greek organizations.  All we really want is more representation and the occasional event.  Indy students compose 47% of Transy’s student body.  Surely there should be some sort of organization/board/committee set up to represent their unique interests.
Regarding the bureaucracy of the situation, I think that this committee may take back burner at the moment in light of Friday’s incident.  I am concerned that everyone will be too busy with (obviously) more important things to deal with the brain damage of setting up a committee.  I could be wrong though and I hope that I am.
I would like to think that the stakeholders could see how this could benefit nearly half of the student at Transy directly and the other half indirectly.  However, I have no idea how they will react.  They could think that it is a waste of resources.  I have not actually asked any of them what their thoughts are yet and have had too little experience with them to make an educated guess.

Pitch: Food Reform on Campus

Few Transy students are completely happy with the dining options and meal plans on campus.  There are several problems with the food on campus that are not directly related.

  • Meal plans are difficult to get exempted from. To be exempted, a student must live:
    • Off Campus
    • 4th Street Apartments
    • International House
  • Many students don’t want any of these options
    • Difficult to get permission to live off campus
    • 4th Street Apartments fill up fast and have security issues and is on the outskirts of campus.
    • I’ve heard that the international house isn’t going to be an option in the future.
    • Some students are happy with the other dorm… except for the meal plan requirement.
  • Meal plans are flat rates. If you live on campus, all meal plans cost $4,140 currently.  There is not cheaper option with significantly fewer meals and points.  The commuter options are not available for those living on campus.
  • Sodexo keeps closing options.
    • Thompson hall late-night junk food was closed and moved to the Caf this year.
    • The Raf is closed for May Term.
  • The Caf is terrible most of the time.
    • Lots of rice
    • Strange choices
    • Often either too salty or completely flavorless
    • Few vegetables outside of the salad bar
      • Green beans never taste decent
      • Carrots always undercooked
    • Rarely choices for fruit (fresh whole bananas, apples, and oranges always available).
    • Saturday and Sunday Brunch is almost always awful unless you want an omelet.
    • Odd portion sizes
    • Not really helpful that the deserts are decent!
  • Jazzman’s is mostly fine for its purpose
    • Would be nice to have a breakfast wrap with less bread than sandwiches
    • Paper plates rather than plastic for microwaving in would also be better
    • The “smoothies” don’t have any actual fruit in them, just a lot of sugar
  • Students can only use 3 meal swipes each day.
    • 1 for Breakfast, must be used before 11 am
    • 1 for Lunch, must be used between 11 am and 4:30 pm
    • 1 for Dinner, must be used after 4:30 pm
    • If you miss a meal, you can’t double up later when you need it or convert it to points if you want a late-night snack and you lose that meal swipe.
  • For students who choose to avoid dairy the only option is soy milk. People who choose not to drink milk, have probably also heard that soy isn’t great for you either.  Having more options (i.e. coconut, almond, or cashew) would be wonderful!

Students need more options on campus, both in food choices and in meal plan choices.  Many students are not adequately utilizing the dining options on campus.  Since many people are wasting money every time they miss using a meal swipe, Sodexo should have more than enough to make the choices decent.  The dining choices are uneconomical and unhealthy- two things college students struggle with already.

There is probably not an easy way to fix this.  Sodexo has a monopoly on the food at Transy and they’re interested in making a profit.  However, I would still like to offer some suggestions:

A. Allow students to opt out of the meal plan.

B. Make DRASTIC changes to the on-campus food options

C. Redesign the meal plans/ add new ones   i.e. “5 meals and $50” or “7 meals and $100” at discounted rates.

Implementing all three of these would be especially helpful.  A and C would be easier to change since they are just adding new options into the food choices on TNet and would not require and actual work for Sodexo to change recipes or add food.  B would be nice, but still leave students with no way out if they still don’t like it.  However, if A and C were both implemented, Sodexo would have to implement B, since they would have to convince students that the on-campus dining options are worth the money.  The Transy dining options affects every student’s health as well as their wallet.

Click Here for Google Slides presentation.