It's Time To Meet the UMass Students Going Beyond Labels

It's Time To Meet the UMass Students Going Beyond Labels

What's it like to live a life free of labels?
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Stereotypes exist. Women are inherently weaker than men. Asians are good at maths and sciences. Gays are flamboyant and promiscuous. There was a time when society actively acknowledged those stereotypes, creating exclusion laws and protecting people’s rights because of who they were.

But it has progressed, in a way -- people are people, regardless of their race, gender, orientation or any categorical label. Most people no longer consciously single others out derogatorily because of who they are.

But what about subconsciously? Might you avoid starting up a conversation with someone because of the groups they associate with? Would you automatically judge someone because their appearance is similar to a group you don’t particularly like?

You may, and the judgments you make may hurt someone without you meaning to. They’re not quite through a fault of your own -- they’re known as unconscious stereotypes, ones that you might not actively use to classify people, but occur anyways.

There are plenty of campaigns on campus out to fight against active stereotypes, but there aren’t any dedicated to rooting out and reflecting on unconscious ones. This is where the campaign (un)labeled comes in.

Conceived by a group of students in an advertising practicum, the campaign is dedicated to helping people realize that subconscious stereotypes still exist and that it’s not too late to recognize and reflect on them. Originally, the challenge stemmed from the Anti-Defamation-League, which put out a call to college campuses to create a campaign that was able to reach as many students as possible.

“We [looked] at hate groups that were around us and [looked at] people we could try to reach by doing this campaign,” says Pascale Froehlich, a member of the campaign. “We thought about UMass, and how UMass generally considers itself pretty liberal.” Liberalism and non-hatefulness, however, don’t quite seem to go hand-in-hand.

“People say ‘I’m not hateful’ and they don’t realize they are hateful,” she explains. “We’re not saying you’re hateful for having unconscious stereotypes, we’re saying you might not know that you have them, and realizing you have them and making a change is more productive than just saying ‘I’m not hateful’.”

It’s tempting to ask what sets the (un)labeled campaign apart from all of the other groups on campus: after all, they all strive towards somewhat of a similar goal.

“There are a lot of great support groups on campus,” Pascale acknowledges. “We don’t want to copy another group because it’s not going to be effective when they already have such a presence on campus. We stand out because there isn’t a group that focuses on unconscious stereotypes, and because [we are] a group that can bring other groups together.”

Another thing that sets them apart is their intention to target as many people on campus as they can. “I don’t think there’s a group yet that necessarily targets everyone on campus,” she says. “We wanted to target as many people on campus as we could, and we thought that targeting unconscious stereotypes was the best way to do that.”

As a social media campaign, (un)labeled puts a lot of emphasis on the amount of effort that it takes to participate. “People don’t necessarily have to do much,” Pascale says. “They just have to reflect and realize that even though they consider themselves as liberal doesn’t mean [they] don’t have these implicit stereotypes,” It’s a campaign that could flourish in an environment where supporting causes can mean that you have to go all out for them or risk being labelled as someone not dedicated enough.

“UMass, at least in the past, has been known to be a very activist campus.” she allows. “It can be stressful if you just want to be a person. You know how there’s a ton of active people on campus, but there are people who don’t want to be totally active?

Maybe they’ll agree with the campaign, but they don’t feel comfortable going out and rallying -- we want to target people who are actively trying to make change but also the people who aren’t really comfortable going out to change society but at least they can make a change to themselves.”

The campaign’s message (to live an unlabelled life) is one that resonates even with the members. “It’s part of my own self-development,” she reflects. “We all do it -- we all have our own unconscious stereotypes...It’s something that you have to reflect on, and I think that it’s important for future generations that we can grow up treating people as individuals. Doesn’t sound like a hard thing to do, but it is hard. Humans love to categorize people.”

It seems especially true when looking at the campus’ annual climate report, which played a part in fueling the campaign. “I already knew that we’re not very diverse as a campus, but I was surprised that the efforts the campus has made to diversify aren’t really working out,” Pascale says. “I know the campus makes a lot of effort to diversify, but year to year, the numbers [of people that feel the campus has diversified] don’t change.”

“I think this might have to do with that there aren’t enough support groups for people on a campus that is predominantly white. I wish that UMass maybe changed their tactics or found other ways to be more inclusive.”

She’s fearful that the lack of diversity at the school may affect the diversity of its attendees. “When people visit the school and go on tours, maybe they don’t feel comfortable because we’re not that diverse, and that’s why they choose not to come here. I’m scared that that might be the case. Obviously [because] Massachusetts is predominantly white, and [because] it’s a state school...UMass makes so many efforts to diversify, I’m confused as to why there isn’t more diversity.”

Diversity is more important now than ever, especially in a campaign that aims to encourage it through asking people to think about their unconscious stereotypes. “In today’s society, there’s a lot of campaigns pushing back on the progress we’ve made,” Pascale explains. “There have been a lot of groups that have popped up and said ‘it’s okay to be racist again” and that people like ‘femi-nazis’ are taking [their issues] too far, that they should just chill out.”

“It’s not about chilling out, it’s about doing the things that we’ve been saying and normalizing them. I believe one of the main ways to do that is to attack unconscious stereotypes.”

Recently, the campaign hosted an event geared towards attacking unconscious stereotypes and revealing them. Inspired by a Heineken ad, the group felt that they could simulate something similar to the ad and produce the same results. “Can you meet someone on campus that you wouldn’t necessarily have a conversation with?” Pascale asks. “Can they look past their unconscious stereotypes and have a conversation?”

The event, titled “Beyond the Label”, almost sounds like the premise of a speed-dating event at first: two people sitting in a cubicle are given questions and time to answer them in the hopes that they will facilitate a conversation. “It’s not speed dating, but more of a conversation,” she laughs. “They’re going to have questions to ask each other. If they go through the questions and feel like they don’t have anything else to say each other, that’s fine, but we’re hoping they get inspired to have a conversation with each other.”

“I don’t think that anyone’s going to change their perspective, but I want them to realize that there are tons of people on campus that -- even though they’re different -- doesn’t mean that you can’t have a conversation with them.”

Unfortunately, for those that missed it, the event seems to have been a one-time-only opportunity, as many members of the campaign are graduating. However, footage from the event (and other students’ stories) can be found on (un)labeled’s website for all to peruse and learn from, hopefully, to work towards eliminating unconscious biases and to create a more diverse campus.

Cover Image Credit: Serena Wong

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20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.
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Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

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To The Girl Who Is Shamed For Being 'Basic'

Life is made up of enjoying the little things. Don't let anyone make you feel bad for loving what you love.

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You see her.

She has her hair half-up, half-down with a mini-bun on top, and she's clutching her Pumpkin Spice Latte as she runs to her Art History class. Draped around her shoulders is a Northface jacket, and her Lululemon leggings are tucked into her brown Ugg boots. She's the girl with an infinity sign tattooed on her wrist and a sign with "Live, Laugh, Love" written in pretty cursive hanging on her wall. You listen to her talk about how she was so busy jamming out to Beyoncé that she almost forgot to unplug her straightener. She was up so late the night before watching "The Bachelor" and sipping rosé that she almost forgot to clean her nostril piercing. Before class, she sends a picture of herself in the Snapchat dog filter to all her streaks and posts a picture of her trip to the pumpkin patch on Instagram.

You see her. What do you do? Do you watch her like she's an animal in a zoo? Do you shake your head at how far humanity has fallen? Do you make fun of her actions and interests?

You leave her alone.

Mind your own business. What she's doing isn't affecting you in any way, so lay off her. What makes you think you have the right to dictate what someone can or cannot love?

She is just as entitled to her interests as you are. So maybe you two don't mesh. Maybe you love combat boots and would rather eat a rat instead of watching "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." That's okay. You are welcome to enjoy what you enjoy. However, that does not give you the right to make fun of girls who are interested in mainstream things.

So-called "Basic Girls" can't enjoy anything without being made fun of for it. Love Starbucks? "You don't know what real coffee tastes like." An infinity scarf is your staple accessory in fall and winter? "You dress just like every other girl." Saved up for that tattoo of an anchor inscribed with a meaningful quote? "You're following a trend." Think the dog or butterfly crown Snapchat filter is cute? "You think you're pretty? How arrogant."

Stop making people feel bad for what they like. Maybe she decided to treat herself to a caramel frappuccino today because she doesn't like coffee. Scarves are cute and good for warmth. Her tattoo can be meaningful and beautiful and still be popular. The Snapchat filters are super fun and are meant to evoke laughs. Stop taking everything so seriously.

People who criticize these girls are awful. We are just trying to live our lives, but they feel the need to tell us how unoriginal we are. We're told to abandon our interests so we can be "unique." Newsflash: I am unique. I am my own person. You do not get to decide what type of person I am based on your very limited knowledge of what I like to do or how to dress or what to wear.

I do not make fun of you for having a farmer's tan and wearing your camp shirts with your hair in a messy bun. I do not laugh at you for downing a Monster energy drink and playing video games. Do not ridicule me because I love things that are popular.

I love pumpkins.

I love scarves.

I love Starbucks.

I love Snapchat filters.

Life is all about enjoying the little things while you still can. Do not make me feel bad about doing what I love.

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