Campus Organizing Series: Affluent or Apathetic College Campuses/Small College Campuses

By Guest Blogger
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Guest post by D. Robinson

As an FMF intern, I have the opportunity to write toolkits regarding campus activism and organizing. In this first installment (the others will be coming over the course of this week and the next!) I will be discussing different strategies to organizing on an affluent or apathetic college campus. If you have any other tips, feel free to chime in in the comments section! I am a rising junior at Colgate University, an institution which many current students and alumni have frequently considered a privileged university, which it is. However, as a student leader of various organizations on campus, I have found Colgate to be a severely apathetic campus. A lot of students are privileged enough to not care about issues, even if it may affect them in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful college that provides an excellent education, but the apathy amongst the student body lends many problems to organizing and mobilizing. However, I found the tips below to be useful in my organizing at Colgate. I hope they help you too.

  1. Build Community—Oftentimes at smaller, more affluent or apathetic college campuses, it is extremely hard to unify the student body around a common cause. Build community by reaching out to various groups to identify the commonalities between them. Host events and invite various student groups to them that may be related in some way to the event or are simply interested in the event. It may be beneficial for your organization to have a mentoring program to incoming first-years. This acclimates them to the campus climate while opening them up to the opportunities of your organization; it also helps to build bridges between upper and lower class years.
    • i.e. At Colgate University we often have Vision meetings, which are meetings held with all student leaders discussing upcoming events for the semester as well as ways that each of us can get involved in one another’s activities.
    • Breaking Bread at Colgate University is a program that allows two or more student groups that have not formerly worked together to prepare a meal and discuss an action plan for collaboration within the coming semester to begin working together on a regular basis.
  2. Reach Out—At more affluent college campuses there is a problem of building bridges. Student of color groups should reach out to Greek life and Greek Life should do the same. It is important to find allies in all groups so that your organizing can become more effective and efficient.
  3. Know your resources and utilize them—It is important to know that you have many resources available to you on your college campus that can aid you in organizing amongst an affluent and/or apathetic student body. Your biggest resources may be your allies in the administration who can work with you to channel some of their departmental funding (it is there!) into your organization so that you may develop programming that will incite students on your campus to rally around change. In your student handbook should be a directory of all departments on campus, look at which ones would be interested in your mission and connect with them. Many campuses also have student activity fairs throughout the year, reach out to new students in that way—show them the work that you have done and continue to do.
  4. Develop programming that everyone can get involved in—Once a common cause is found, it becomes easier for students—of all socioeconomic backgrounds and ideals—to rally around it. Take, for example, sexual assault atColgateUniversity. Once all students understood to the magnitude of sexual assault, it was easier for student leaders and campus organizers to mobilize students around that cause effectively.
  5. Infiltrate your student government and Greek Life—At small apathetic and affluent college campuses, a lot of students actually look up to leaders in their student government or those who are in Greek Life. If you can infiltrate those two sectors, you will secure some more people to mobilize. Being in these positions that people respect allows you to mobilize and organize a lot more efficiently.
  6. Make your cause one that is taught in classrooms—Simply put, if a teacher discusses your issue in a class where students have to at least partially care, it can introduce them to your cause and/or mission. In that way, you have reached a new set of people which is what organizers should always seek to do.
  7. Utilize word of mouth and social media—The best way to organize on a small, affluent campus is to utilize word of mouth. If a friend is going to an event, you’re bound to join them in some form or fashion. Even if they aren’t, they will probably tell you about that event when it is over, which may motivate you to attend another one of those events. Social media is a powerful thing that has proven effective for many organizers. Knowing how to properly utilize Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Digg, and other social media networking sites can allow you, as an organizer, to maximize your base and your potential on your college campus. Have someone in your organization who is dedicated to spreading your cause among these social networking sites and organizing will become an easy feat in no time!

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