Campus Organizing Series: Large Public Universities

By Guest Blogger
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Guest post by Alison T.

So the DC Campus Interns have been assigned the project of blogging campus organizing tips for different types of campuses, in order to provide our fellow college feminists with some tools for making change on their campuses. My first topic is one with which I have a lot of experience: Large Public Universities.

I am a rising senior at the University of California, Davis, a public land grant university with nearly 30,000 students, and I have a lot of experience with activism on my campus. I am an ASUCD Senator and my platform was driven by the needs of the feminist and social justice activist communities. So far I have been able to protest blood drives on our campus (for their discrimination against men who have sex with men), gain funding for ethnic and lavender graduation ceremonies and culture weeks, begin planning a womyn’s leadership conference, draft a pregnant undergrad resource guide, and advocate for sexual harassment training of all ASUCD employees (and that’s just in one quarter!).

Organizing the crowds at a public university can be tough, but it’s definitely doable! Here are my top five tips to keep in mind, with some personal anecdotes to go along:

  1. Know Your Resources: Large public universities seem to have an administrative department for everything. Be sure you know where you’ll need to go to reserve a room on campus, how to get permission to do fundraising, and how to request a sound permit (it’s also best to know this information before you need it!).
    • You may find that your campus offers grants and services for student clubs. Make sure you register your group to receive these benefits!
    • On the UC Davis campus there are about 100 places you can go to request money (the student government, campus resource centers, academic departments, the office of the chancellor, etc.), and it’s important to hit up every relevant one during a budget crisis. This will also give you great practice in the world of grant writing!
    • Troll your school’s website for deadlines and requirements for each funding source.
  2. Collaborate! On such a large campus there are bound to be multiple clubs that work on the same issues: why not collaborate! This is a great way to acquire more resources and people-power to pull off those BIG events you have planned.
    • If there is not a directory of clubs on your campus, keep your eye out for fliers from other groups and visit their meetings. Go out to coffee with their President and get to know what they’re about and if your goals align in any way (and if they don’t align, why not hold a public debate?). This is a great way to expand attendance at your events from the regular crew.
    • Also, if you’re lobbying the administration, having a coalition of student groups behind your cause will get their attention!
    • I have found that this is a great way to get new ideas for club activities and also to make great friends. Even if you never work with a group on an event, establishing a personal relationship with them will make them more likely to attend your future events.
    • If your group is lacking diversity, be sure to make the effort to work with those you’re not already in constant contact with. It’s important to make your group feel welcoming to all, but you’ll never really know why it’s not until you ask!
  3. Media Control: The media loves large public universities, and you can take advantage of this fact! If you are holding an event with a lot of drama or action (like a protest), the media may want to cover it!
    • Write a press release and send it to local newspapers and news stations. Who knows, you just might make the evening news! Also, be sure to send press releases to your campus newspaper(s); if they write an article about it, you can reach a lot of students on your campus!
    • With the media comes a word of caution though: you must make an effort to control the way you are portrayed. Media is always looking for drama. Some interviewers may try to trigger you or put words in your mouth with leading questions. Be just a little wary and make mental notes about which sources have been sly in the past.
    • If you are doing an interview for print, it is within your rights to request an advance copy of the quotes they will use from you (as they wrote them down, because sometimes that can be different than the way you thought you said them) or of the story. And never be afraid to say, “No comment.”
  4. Utilizing Social Media- On large campuses, it’s usually easiest to advertise your events through social media (rather than chalking or flyering in the hundreds of classrooms for hours!).
    • Create a facebook group, a twitter account, a flickr, a myspace, and whatever new thing that everyone on your campus is using. Invite all your friends and ask them to invite all their friends. When the first years arrive in fall, they will be able to find your group on your university’s network and learn about how to get involved before your first meeting.
    • I’ve found that on facebook, it’s important to make events for each individual event as well as a group for your club. This way folks who aren’t comfortable having your group on their profile 24/7 can still get invited, plus casual attendees.
    • And there is something to be said about chalking on campus: I have sat in many a boring class and decided to attend a movie or a panel that evening just because it was in my line of sight for so long. On some campuses it’s a no-no, and sometimes you have to wake up at 5 am to do it, but it really is worth it to make that effort!
  5. Infiltrate Your Student Government- At large public universities, some student governments have a lot of power (and money!). It is important that women and feminists are getting a say.
    • Contact a member of the student government and voice your concerns, as well as possible projects the student government could take on.
    • Also, see if there is a committee that deals with gender, race, and/or sexuality. If not, demand that it be created!
    • If all else fails (or if you’re successful), run for office (your collaboration with other student clubs will help create a large voting base).

This is an issue that I am extremely passionate about. Historically, women have been only a sixth of UC Davis’ senate table, even though we’re more than half of the student population! In the national congress, women are only 17%!

If you are able to deal with the mental and social pressures of politics, I feel like it’s your duty to get involved. Make sure the women on your campus are being served, make sure the underrepresented are being heard!

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