Shifting Perspectives on Student Activism

Shifting Perspectives on Student Activism

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2173-0.ch004
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Abstract

This chapter explores how activism is positioned within the world and within higher education. Societal expectations of college students are discussed and include the idea that student's mirror the larger world around them. This leads to students' use of technology as a form of activism, and ultimately, how students balance their own independent thinking and their relationships with faculty members. A second perspective presented is how activism looks to college administrators and policy makers, noting that technology-based activism may draw upon a larger collection of students, but may actually result in less disturbance and impact on campus. The chapter concludes with projections as to what activism will look like in the future.
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Changes In Actions

A primary example of how activism is changing on American college campuses can be seen in the behaviors of students and how they decide to speak or act out on different issues. In some cases, activism remains a process of gathering in public spaces or private offices and making demands. These demands can be symbolic, such as ending racism in America or the students will continue to occupy the president’s office. Some demands have been more specific and actionable, such as calling for a university to divest from investment holdings in companies that use child labor. The value, though, is that students join their collective actions to promote change or endorse an action (Ellsworth & Burns, 2013). Moving beyond the physical actions is but one example of how activism has changed, and these changes have been impacted by the use of technology, the kinds of topics addressed, the integrated campus community, and even social expectations

Technology: Technology has fundamentally changed activism in virtually every way (Rutledge, 2010). Technology is now the primary tool for organizing student actions, and these actions cut across all segments of the student population to include first-generation, lower and upper class students, those who are heavily engaged in campus actions and those who are only tangentially even students enrolled in college. With the power of technology to reach a wide range of student subpopulations, students can not only learn about upcoming actions, but they can also express their feelings and thoughts and demands for restitution or change simply by clicking a button online.

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