Have you ever seen a problem on your college campus and wanted to fix it but just ran into roadblocks?
Colleges and universities across the country are horribly bureaucratic. There is way too much hierarchy and different chains of people and it is hard, confusing to navigate mod podge of departments that somehow work for the university to function.
I recently started a directory of departments from A-Z at my university for my on-campus job. My supervisor, a graduate of the university, and I scrolled through the list of names of departments and just looked at each other in amazement. We have no clue why the university needs so many departments in order to operate.
Coupled with this project I gave myself, in two of my classes, we have decided to take up pretty significant issues at the university midway through the semester. Why you might ask, well I am a part of our Human Services and Social Justice department, so when we see a problem we want to fix it.
One issue is the problem our campus is having with sexual violence. Our professor has heard from her students in the past three years that sexual harassment, violence, and assault are happening and nothing seems to be changing on our campus. In this case, the third time was the charm for her and now we are researching the pertinent offices and organizations on our campus related to this issue to try to create a plan of attack for what we can do.
This is a massive problem with complex intricacies that are socially constructed and woven together. With the six weeks remaining in the semester we might be able to create a proposal for a plan that can be executed later. But the change that we would like to see is not going to happen immediately, and we are aware of that. We just need to keep it in mind so we can have things in the right perspective in terms of what we can try to achieve in the remaining time we have.
The other issue that another one of my classes has gotten fired up about, is also not a small issue. Our department, being relatively small and being very much an adolescent child of the sociology department is being pushed around. Professors seem a little on edge and as though they are walking on thin ice and they are slowly beginning to share their concerns with students.
For example, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, within which our department is housed, made the executive decision to cut the thesis course for seniors to graduate with honors from being two semesters to only one, effective immediately. This decision sent both our program head and all of the seniors into a week-long tailspin, trying to cram two semesters of work into one semester.
Then, with the next semester's schedule of classes being released, our faculty members were told that instead of our classes meeting once a week for an hour and fifty minutes, now we will meet once a week for two and a half hours. There was no time for our faculty to give their comments or concerns on this topic. The change was just made.
Now, with this change affecting all students, and the decision about the thesis class affecting many students, we are fired up about this and want our voices to be heard.
However, we know that in order to be heard and for change to be made, we have to have an organized effort and not just go knocking down the Dean's door. I think many students who want to make changes on their campus fail to see that there has to be an organization to a campaign in order for it to be effective.
One of my classmates though made the valid point that because we are Human Services and Social Justice majors and based on the curriculum that we are taught, we have a unique set of skills to be able to effectively organize a movement to make a change.
It is going to take us a moment, so we're going to need to take a breath to calm down and a step back to examine the greater picture of what needs to be fixed. This is true of both cases.
Organizing can be discouraging because there is no instant gratification involved. It is very delayed gratification. So often you might be the one to put a plan into action, but that plan may not produce results for many months or years. This can be especially hard a college level when there is a constant rotation of students so it is hard to keep the leadership continuous and the momentum going.
You also have to create an organized plan, you can't just see a problem and go after it. I heard Shaun King speak about organizing back in August and I think his recommendations for creating a successful movement are important to keep in mind.
King suggests that to make a change, four things are needed: energized people, organized people, a sophisticated plan, and hopefully money.
At the stage where we are right now in both of my classes, we have energized people, we are working to get ourselves organized and once we do that, then we can make a sophisticated plan and get the money we may need.
So if you are a college student trying to make a change on your campus and feel like you are treading water. I feel you. I feel energized, but I am also dubious that nothing will come about from the energy we have right now.
Hopefully though with a sophisticated plan and in time, we all can navigate the ridiculous bureaucracies of our colleges in order to make productive change.