Creating Counter-Spaces of Resistance and Sanctuaries of Learning and Teaching: An Analysis of Freedom University
by Susana Muñoz, Michelle M. Espino & René Antrop-González - 2014
Background/Context: In 2011, the Georgia Board of Regents passed an educational policy that denies qualified students without documentation access to five selective institutions of higher education in the state. As a form of civil disobedience, Freedom University in Athens, Georgia, was founded to cultivate a space where students without documentation can continue their postsecondary educational pursuits.
Research Questions: The research questions that guided this study are: (a) In what ways does Freedom University serve as a sanctuary of teaching and learning from the perspectives of faculty members? and (b) What challenges and successes have been and continue to be experienced by the faculty of Freedom University in developing sanctuaries of teaching and learning for students without documentation?
Research Design: This qualitative case study included in-depth interviews with three founding faculty members. It also included document analysis that was based on historical aspects associated with the formation of Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights era and the concept of school as sanctuary to understand the pedagogical and philosophical underpinnings associated with the establishment of Freedom University. Through constant comparative data analysis, the authors uncover how Freedom University operates as a sanctuary for students without documentation.
Findings: The findings demonstrate that Freedom University is a postsecondary sanctuary school because it centers students’ experiences within the curriculum and embodies transformational resistance by both students and faculty.
Conclusions/Recommendations: The authors suggest that, by creating sanctuaries at a postsecondary level, students without documentation are afforded a space to continue their education not for a college degree but for the sake of learning.
In March 2010, Jessica Colotl, a student attending Kennesaw State University in Georgia, was arrested by university police for a traffic violation and for not having a drivers license. Because she was a student without documentation,1 Jessica was then transferred by Cobb County deputies to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who planned to deport her to Mexico, a country she had left when she was 10 years old. The president of Kennesaw State University pleaded for her release from an Alabama detention facility, and Jessica was permitted to stay in the country for her senior year (Davis & Oliviero, 2010; Torres, 2010).
Jessicas arrest sparked controversy among local civil rights groups who advocated for the plight of immigrants who are undocumented as well as the general public who expressed outrage against the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents for allowing students without documentation to not only enroll in the states public higher education institutions but purportedly pay in-state tuition (Diamond, 2010). In response to the outcry, in the summer of 2010, the Board of Regents required all USG public institutions to determine the number of students without documentation attending college in the state. Out of 310,000 students, only 501 did not have documentation, and all of those students were paying out-of-state tuition (University System of Georgia, 2010). Despite the small enrollment numbers and the fact that these students were paying out-of-state tuition, the Board of Regents was not deterred from adopting Policy 413 in October 2010 and implementing this anti-immigrant policy in the fall 2011 semester (García Peña, 2012). As a result, five highly selective institutions in the state were barred from admitting students without documentation (i.e., Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia College & State University, University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Medical College of Georgia).
When Policy 413 was initially discussed in 2010, state legislators sought to make the educational policy a law through the failed Act to amend Chapter 36 of Title 50 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (i.e., House Bill 25 that was later renamed House Bill 59). This act would have clarified that postsecondary education is a state and local public benefit thereby denying access to students without documentation at all public postsecondary institutions in the state, including those in the Technical College System of Georgia (Georgia General Assembly, 2011a). The act was reintroduced during the 20112012 legislative session as House Bill 59 and withdrawn in April 2011 (Georgia General Assembly, 2011b). The Board of Regents decision reflected a larger aspect of state policy initiatives that also included the recent passing of the Georgia Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act (i.e., House Bill 87) that went into effect in July 2011 (Georgia General Assembly, 2011c). Georgia politicians and educators were imposing an anti-immigrant stance in both law and educational policy (see Table 1 for a timeline of events).
Table 1. Timeline
In response to barring students without documentation from the University of Georgia (UGA), four faculty members from this institution founded Freedom University, a volunteer-based institution of higher education that provides college courses equivalent to those taught at the selective institutions in Georgia. Their mission statement proclaims, We believe that all Georgians have an equal right to a quality education. Separate and unequal access to higher education contravenes this countrys most cherished principles of equality and justice for all (Freedom University, 2011). Freedom University opened in October 2011 and has served over 60 students. Students who attend Freedom University do not receive academic credit, and faculty members receive no financial compensation for their activities. Yet, similar to the Freedom Schools of the civil rights era, Freedom University offers a space where students learn because they want to learn, learn in order to do and to discover who they are (Perlstein, 1990, p. 297). Freedom University offers an intriguing opportunity to learn more about the complexities of creating counter-spaces in education as well as engaging in scholarly acts of resistance in order to develop sanctuaries of teaching and learning for and with students without documentation.
The purpose of this paper is to understand the pedagogical and philosophical underpinnings associated with the establishment of Freedom University. The findings in this paper are part of a larger case study that analyzes Freedom University as a sanctuary of teaching and learning from the perspectives of faculty, students, and community. While the literature on learning and teaching sanctuaries has primarily focused on K12 schooling (Antrop-González, 2011; Bloom, 1995; Buskey, 1990; Goldfarb, 1998; Stanwood & Doolittle, 2004), we posit a further examination of learning and teaching sanctuaries at the postsecondary level through a case study analysis of the historical and present contexts that led to the creation of Freedom University.
THE NEW LATINO SOUTH
Due to a robust economy, the Latino population in the South2 grew between 200% and 400% between 1990 and 2000 (Kochhar, Suro, & Tafoya, 2005). The population seemed to grow at tremendous rates, because Latinos originally had a small population base in the region. This phenomenon interested political scientists and demographers who uncovered several factors that contributed to this growth: (a) increased enforcement of immigration policies in the Southwest, which pushed immigrants without documentation to the east; (b) limited employment options in traditional migrant gateway cities [such as] Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago (Kandel & Parrado, 2004, p. 257); and (c) heavy recruitment by employers within the carpet manufacturing, construction, meat processing, oil refining, and forestry industries. In addition, growth of cities in the South and social programs influenced by the civil rights movement offer opportunities for poor southern Whites and African Americans to leave labor-intensive jobs (Beck & Allexsaht-Snider, 2002), which left employers to seek workers elsewhere (i.e., Latinos and workers without documentation). Workers were also enticed by the supposed climate of tolerance in which cities like Atlanta were too busy to hate (Lippard & Gallagher, 2011, p. 5). However, as Latinos settled in the area and families began to develop, various sectors of the economy, including health services and education, were affected.
After the labor boom of the 1990s, Georgia began experiencing a faltering economy and Latinos were quickly deemed the scapegoats for economic woes. Pro-immigration scripts depicted Latinos as hardworking, loyal, religious, family-oriented, and willing to take work no one else wants (Hamann, Wortham, & Murillo, 2002, p. 7), the essential components of fulfilling the myth of the American Dream (Hamann, 2003). To voice concerns about difficult working conditions, inadequate housing, or racism violated the image of America as the land of opportunity (Hamann, Wortham, & Murillo, 2002). From an anti-immigration perspective, the Latino population was a threat to the anti-immigrant movement, which characterized the population as aliens, cheats, and criminals and created greater anxiety and panic among long-term residents (Hamann, 2003). This panic and anxiety led to greater concerns about who was gaining access to universities in the state, especially the flagship institution.
The rationale for the Board of Regents ban on students without documentation mirrored the anti-immigration sentiments embedded within yet another educational intervention that reproduces insidious immigration myths. Policy 413 contains several directives that illustrate the Board of Regents attempts to ease public apprehension regarding students without documentation taking away seats from U.S. citizens. First, students applying to colleges within the USG must acknowledge that falsifying information is against the law and disclose that they are seeking resident tuition rates. In turn, USG institutions must verify lawful presence (Policy Manual of the Board of Regents, Section 4.3.4) of all students seeking resident tuition (University System of Georgia, n.d.b). If a student is found to be without documentation, the institution must require them to pay out-of-state tuition rates. Finally, five highly selective institutions are required to deny students without documentation admission to any college that has turned away academically qualified applicants because of a lack of space or other issues (University System of Georgia, 2012a, pp. 2627).
In his testimony to the University System of Georgia, Chancellor Hank Huckaby (University System of Georgia, 2012b) spoke in support of House Bill 25/59 as a means of protecting Georgia students who qualified for college as well as Georgia taxpayers who should not have to pay for educating undocumented students or provide an undue benefit to these students.
Huckabys statement illustrates a discourse that continues to vilify and criminalize immigrants by insinuating that Georgians need to be protected and positions immigrants as a threat to the states economic viability. The rhetoric also labels students without documentation as undeserving and unqualified to reap the same higher education benefits as their documented counterparts. These college-bound students (or less than 1% of the Georgias total college student enrollment) have earned their right to higher education benefits by fulfilling and often exceeding the expectations placed on them throughout their K12 schooling. This policy also blatantly contradicts the Board of Regents commitment to cultural, ethnic, racial, and gender diversity in the faculty, staff, and student body, supported by practices and programs that embody the ideals of an open, democratic, and global society (University System of Georgia, n.d.a, para. 2). Policies excluding students without documentation from accessing supposedly unearned benefits that have economic consequences are faulty and dangerous.
Despite competing immigration scripts, it is imperative that strategies and initiatives are developed to provide educational opportunities for Latino students, especially in the South, which has limited formalized structures or support mechanisms dedicated to this emerging population. The complexities of (im)migration continues to affect secondary education where educational challenges are prevalent. In the 1990s, many Latino children enrolled in Georgia schools were immigrants, most of whom were not fluent English language speakers, who came with limited formal education from their native countries and were not familiar with the U.S. public educational system (Wainer, 2006). Between 1990 and 2000, Hispanic3 children in secondary school increased by 322% and Hispanic children under the age of 4 grew 382% (Kochhar et al., 2005). In contrast, the White and Black populations of children increased by 10% and 18%, respectively. Currently, 24.8% of Georgia Hispanics fall under the poverty level and only 13.2% of Hispanics over the age of 25 have earned a bachelors degree or higher, in contrast to non-Hispanic Whites at 9.1% and 40.5%, respectively (Lumina Foundation, 2009; U.S. Census Bureau, 2008). Although political leaders are crafting legislation to potentially curb the growth of this population, Latinos continue to settle in Georgia and their population is projected to increase by 70% by 2030 (Brown & Hauer, 2010).
Since the state of Georgia has continuously fallen short in addressing the educational needs of African Americans and low-income Whites, minimal attention has been devoted to the challenges faced by Latino students, families, and communities (Hamann, 2003). The emergence of racist and anti-immigrant policies affecting Latino educational outcomes has become a common practice in Georgia. For example, a resurgence of nativism resulted in House Resolution 413 that declared English as the official language of the state in 1996 (Georgia General Assembly, 2008) and was interpreted in its strictest form by the Georgia Department of Education (Sox, 2009, p. 313). Due to English-only approaches in many states, including Georgia, and the methods-only curricula of many teacher education programs further characterized by the absence of courses that address sociohistorical issues, political issues, cultural issues, or social justice, few teachers have either the awareness to develop culturally relevant pedagogies in the classroom or the sociocultural preparation needed to interact with Latino families, especially those in Spanish-speaking households (Cummins; 2001; Nieto, 2009; Skutnabb-Kangas, Phillipson, Mohanty, & Panda, 2009; Wortham & Contreras, 2002).
Even when Latinos finish the basic requirements for high school graduation, the state of Georgia mandates a written English exam, which is perceived as a barrier for many English language learners. Only one third of Latinos graduate from high school in the state, a statistic that demonstrates that there are systemic barriers that are minimizing educational opportunities for this population (Bohon, Macpherson, & Atiles, 2005). In a study of Latino high school students and their families, college access was termed The Big Lie, which meant that Latino students were encouraged to do well in high school only to find that they could not access college either because they did not know of the resources available for U.S. residents (including the HOPE scholarship4) or because they did not have documentation (Bohon et al., 2005).
We contend that the New Latino South has great potential to set the standard for Latino educational attainment (Wainer, 2006), and yet, through various forms of state action and educational policy, Georgia is facing an education crisis rooted in de facto segregation. The ways in which Latino students and students without documentation have been and continue to be positioned in the South through policy and action are unique as educational and political discourses in Georgia are transforming from a Black and White paradigm to one that includes Brown. Similar to the Freedom Schools of the 1960s, Freedom University offers a counter-space that challenges separate, unequal, and restrictive access to education and uplifts a vulnerable student population.
FREEDOM UNIVERSITY AS A FREEDOM SCHOOL
At the end of the Civil War, Reconstruction efforts included the building of schools for freed Black children (Forman, 2005). Because Reconstruction in the South was a slow effort, many Black communities built schools on their own with little help from the Freedmans Bureau and the federal government. [B]y 1867, almost 250 schools had opened in Georgia; ninety-six were supported by the freedman, and freedmen owned fifty-seven of the school buildings (Forman, 2005, p. 1292). According to Foner (1988), many of the schools that served Black communities were often housed within church buildings (called Sabbath Schools), basements, private homes, and even former slave markets. Many Black communities in the South wanted to control the operation and curricular development of their schools, which often conflicted with government interventions that were creating schools through the Freedmans Bureau (Forman, 2005).
The Freedmans Bureau was also charged with the task of developing Black colleges (Gasman, 2008). Similar to some of the Black schools developed in the postbellum period, Black churches and White missionary groups were involved in developing Black colleges such as Fisk University and Spelman College. When the Morrill Act of 1860 was passed, the federal government took a more direct interest in establishing supposedly separate but equal Black public institutions of higher education (Gasman, 2008). The reality for many Black colleges was that access to educational resources and monies was not equal to those at predominately White institutions. Despite the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, secondary and postsecondary institutions in the South remained segregated. Protests against segregation in all sectors of society began to galvanize Black college students in the South, creating spaces of resistance that would support the fight for civil rights.
As part of the civil rights movement, Freedom Schools were also developed as emancipatory interventions in Mississippi through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Although the original intent was to have 20 schools established across the state, reaching out to about 1,000 high school juniors and seniors, SNCCs efforts resulted in coordinating over 40 schools comprised of 2,000 children and young adults, ages 4 to 23 (Perlstein, 1990). Volunteers, most of whom were White, were recruited from northern states to work on behalf of SNCC in coordinating voter registration and facilitating Freedom School curricula. When they first arrived in Mississippi, the volunteers had expected that Black communities would welcome them, but the reality fell short of those expectations. Fear was prevalent throughout the small communities and Black children were still wary of their White volunteer teachers. Many were accustomed to a rigid instruction that prohibited debate; they did not believe that they could share their opinions. As a colonizing force, traditional educational structures were focused on keeping Black children in their places rather than expanding their minds to critically analyze their life experiences. Although one volunteers depiction of her experience at a Freedom School seems romanticized, Howe (1965) explained that Freedom Schools were less about educating children about being Black and more about helping them to regain their humanity as well as understanding how we live in the kind of world we control (or the kind of world that controls us) (p. 146).
According to Howe (1965), the Freedom Schools challenged traditional forms of teaching and learning because teachers positioned themselves as equal learners along with their students. Volunteers were trained to recognize scars of the system, such as cynicism, distrust, and lack of academic preparation, as well as knowledge of how to survive in a system that is out to destroy you (Perlstein, 1990, p. 315). Having the space to debate and share ideas was powerful and mobilized children to fight for integration, convincing their parents to support the movement.
By the end of Freedom Summer, discontent with liberatory pedagogy increased as many within SNCC were dismayed by the pervasive nature of racism not only in Mississippi but in places that were perceived to be more just and humane. In addition, the structure of Freedom Schools was difficult to maintain, because many of the volunteers returned to their communities, which ran contrary to SNCCs goals of working from within communities to create change. As a result, Freedom Schools could not be sustained after that summer due to limited resources and the intractability of American injustice (Perlstein, 1990, p. 324). Although SNCC participated in numerous interventions after Freedom Summer, they never again set up a program as expansive as the Freedom Schools project.
The civil rights movement of the 1960s also positioned Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans to consider their educational and civil rights. Student organizations such as the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) sparked activism across college campuses as students demanded more services for Latino college students, recruitment of Latino faculty, and culturally relevant curricula (MacDonald & Garcia, 2003). Institutions such as Hostos Community College and Boricua College in New York serve as examples of other government initiatives to address matters of educational access and inequities among Latinos and Puerto Ricans in particular.
Colegio César Chávez (César Chávez College) in Mount Angel, Oregon, and Escuela Tlatelolco in Denver, Colorado, are two institutions aligned with the Freedom School model. While both were founded in the early 1970s as part of the Chicano movement, Colegio César Chávez embraced the college without walls educational philosophy, which promotes teaching and learning outside the realms of traditional classrooms. Students were encouraged to engage with community issues, influence the curriculum, and apply their classroom experiences to real-world challenges and problems. Similarly, Escuela Tlatelolco was founded by the prominent Chicano activist Rodolfo Corky González who believed that a school should be a living image of what we say we are doing. We are in the process of nation-building (Maldonado, 2000, p. 15). Both institutions were short lived but are historical reminders of the continued struggle for educational opportunities and equity in higher education. As will be illustrated in the discussion of our case, there are similarities between Freedom Schools and Freedom University in terms of pedagogical approaches, the volunteer base, and the longevity of an emancipatory intervention.
Various educational scholars have described the ways in which some schools have established the conditions necessary to develop learning and teaching sanctuaries for students (Bloom, 1995; Buskey, 1990; Goldfarb, 1998; Stanwood & Doolittle, 2004). Buskey (1990) presented the historical context of the first Danish folk high school founded in Denmark in 1851. This early learning sanctuary had several distinct features for the young adults who resided with tutors and participated together in lectures and discussions: (a) Students and teachers, through consensus, chose areas of study; (b) dialogue was the primary tool of communication; (c) tests, grades, or degrees were not imposed on learners; (d) the learners term of study and stay was generally limited to no more than two consecutive terms of four months; (e) students were required to live in the school; (f) learners worked together on a project; (g) each learning community/cohort was self-governing; and (h) teachers lived at the school with their students (Buskey, 1990). The main advantages of this type of school rested on the fact that the learning environments provided a sense of intimacy and community that allowed for the establishment of high-quality interpersonal relationships between students and teachers.
A school becomes a sanctuary when it begins to consider the importance of students psychological, social, and moral safety as vital to the learning process (Bloom, 1995, p. 433). Furthermore, in a study of an elementary school program called Grupo de Padres, Goldfarb (1998) describes how this particular school became a safe physical and emotional space for its low-income immigrant families. It was within this sanctuary-like space that students and their families were able to obtain and exchange information, such how to apply for college, obtain financial aid, and enroll in antipoverty and ESL programs. Finally, students and teachers at the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Alternative High School in Chicago suggest that a school is a sanctuary when there are specific cultural elements in place (Antrop-González, 2011). These elements include a culturally relevant curriculum that honors the life experiences of African American and Latino students, a deep sense of psychological and physical safety, a culture of high academic expectations, and the building and maintenance of meaningful interpersonal relationships between students and their teachers.
Like the Freedom Schools of the 1960s, learning and teaching spaces have the potential to become sanctuaries when (a) there is ample evidence that there are meaningful interpersonal relationships of care between students and teachers; (b) students are held to high academic expectations; (c) curricular practices and materials are culturally relevant; (d) members feel a sense of familism due to the small size within the space; and (e) learners are offered physical and psychological refuge from the racism that is experienced outside its walls (Antrop-González, 2011). For example, the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Alternative High School uses critical pedagogy as a framework from which to guide its curriculum. Critical pedagogy operates from several premises. First, education is a political act. Second, curriculum should be relevant to the lives and experiences of learners. Third, teachers are not seen as all-knowing beings that are charged with depositing knowledge in learners heads; on the contrary, learners also bring much knowledge to bear in the educational process. Hence, knowledge is coconstructed through dialogue between learners and facilitators. Finally, the ultimate goal of critical pedagogy is to raise political consciousness in order to incite social change. Transformational resistance is one method in which individuals complicate acts of oppression in order to create a socially just community. This heightened sense of political consciousness allows marginalized individuals to analyze themselves, their communities, and hegemonic structures in order rectify, affirm, and centralize their cultures, values, and needs to promote self-determination and human rights (Freire, 1970; Solórzano & Delgado-Bernal, 2001).
While the school as sanctuary framework has been important for understanding the cultural conditions that Latino students value in their schools in order for their learning to take place, it has only been articulated within the context of K12 schooling. The creation of Freedom University illustrates the counter-spaces that are beginning to develop to serve students without documentation and those who are feeling cooled-out from higher education. Thus, more research needs to be undertaken to determine the extent to which postsecondary institutions can serve as sanctuaries of learning and teaching for students without documentation.
The following questions guided this paper:
In what ways does Freedom University serve as a sanctuary of teaching and learning from the perspectives of faculty members?
What challenges and successes have been and continue to be experienced by the faculty of Freedom University in developing sanctuaries of teaching and learning for students without documentation?
In this case study, we analyzed the perspectives of three founding faculty members from Freedom University. In addition, we developed a contextual background of anti-immigration sentiments in the state of Georgia to illustrate how policies and xenophobia affected teaching and learning. Congruent with case study methods, we provided multiple data collection sources that can provide a detailed description of the context of study (Creswell, 1998; Merriam, 1998; Stake, 2005). We utilized interviews, newspaper articles, a published article by a Freedom University faculty member, and the USG Board of Regents meeting minutes to paint a descriptive account of Freedom University in order to understand the context, key events, and functions of this case (Creswell, 1998; Merriam, 1998; Stake, 2005).
We interviewed three of the four founding faculty of Freedom University, all of whom were faculty members at the University of Georgia at the time of the study. We were unable to secure an interview time with the last founding faculty member due to scheduling. All of the founding faculty members were located in humanities disciplines; all were women, and two identified as Latinas. Only one faculty member was untenured but held an appointment that was tenure track. Because the identities of the participants can be easily determined, the participants are labeled as Participants A, B, and C.
We used semistructured questions because they have a more flexible format, with questions that do not need to be asked in any particular order. This type of questioning allows for the researcher to respond with another question or to probe in order to gain a better perspective on the participants answers (Merriam, 1998). The interview questions focused on the establishment of Freedom University as well as how the faculty members constructed teaching and learning within that specific context and within their roles as UGA faculty. The interview questions presented to participants are shown in Appendix A.
One advantage of interviews is that they permit researchers to collect a relatively large amount of information in a short amount of time. However, interviews are limited by the willingness of participants to share personal information at their comfort levels (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). Hence, gaining trust and establishing rapport was paramount to this study, particularly because the topic of immigration can be a contentious one. One of the authors was able to establish a connection with one of the faculty members through her former academic position. This faculty member expressed support for this research project and was able to provide us with the names of the other faculty members involved with the establishment of Freedom University.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS PROCEDURES
Consistent with case study research, Stouffer (as cited in Stake, 2005) suggested collecting data from the actions and inner workings of the case itself. This includes examining the historical, economic, political, legal, and aesthetic contexts for the study in addition to the physical nature of similar cases and the need to identify informants who can provide good insight into the case study. Given that we focused on Freedom University as a counter-space and sanctuary for teaching and learning, the faculty members were a major source of our data collection for this study. We contacted the participants via email to schedule 1-hr interviews that took place over teleconference. We then transcribed the interviews verbatim, read each interview, and wrote notes, questions, and interpretations in the margins. We held multiple conference calls throughout the analysis to discuss all preliminary coding and search for larger themes.
We also followed Stakes (as cited in Creswell, 1998) four forms of data analysis: categorical aggregation reviews the data for emerging meanings, direct interpretation breaks apart and puts back together the pieces of a single instance to find different meanings, patterns look for correlations or patterns between categories to merge or condense into fewer categories, and naturalistic generalizations interpret and understand the case study based on the major themes. Two of the authors coded all the transcriptions simultaneously using Google Docs. Then all three authors discussed the initial codes and further developed a condensed version of the coding list to ensure reader agreement. We organized the transcriptions according to the list of initial codes and conducted further analysis and deduction based on patterns and condensation. A sample of our coding method can be found in Appendix B.
In addition to coding transcripts, a draft version of this manuscript was sent to a peer reviewer who advised us to continue the tightening process of the emergent themes. In order to abide by Creswells (1998) added form of data analysis, description, which provides a visualization of the setting, participants, and context to the readers, we considered the codes about the functions and administrative aspects of Freedom University separately in our coding process, which specifically added to the contextual knowledge of Freedom University as a sanctuary of teaching and learning (see Table 2 for examples of the coding process). The themes that emerged from this final phase of the analysis include: (a) the role of student experiences in shaping curricula within sanctuaries of teaching and learning and (b) the act of transformational resistance within sanctuaries of teaching and learning. The remainder of this paper provides a brief overview of Freedom University and then a discussion of our findings.
Table 2. Coding Process
While careful attention was taken to ensure that the data presented in this article reflect the voices of three of the founding faculty of Freedom University, it is important to note that there were a few limitations. The participant sample for the study is small but represents a majority of the faculty involved in this specific initiative and offers the viewpoint of faculty as they work with students without documentation. Few studies currently address these interactions between faculty and students without documentation; thus, this study offers a compelling case for the elements important to creating a sanctuary of teaching and learning. Second, the use of case study methods presents various limitations. Because we have treated the sample as a single case from a particular region of the country and within a specific sociopolitical context, our findings are not generalizable. However, the findings can be used as an exploratory tool for future studies.
The creation of Freedom University was based on a culmination of various issues that were directly and indirectly affecting higher education in the state of Georgia. First, the 20112012 legislative session was facing challenges to funding the HOPE Scholarship and pre-K education, which were projected to cost $1.1 billion together during the 2011 fiscal year (Badertscher & Diamond, 2011, para. 12). According to one of the professors, the University of Georgia had been contending with severe budget cuts and a decrease in funding from the Hope Scholarship, which, for the most part, was being used as a retention mechanism for the most affluent students in the state rather than creating college access opportunities for low-income students.
[I]nstead of putting a salary cap on [the Hope Scholarship] and saying, People making over $150,000 a year, you cant send your kids to school for free off of the lottery receipts, . . . [the university] just raised the academic requirements so that fewer students could get them, but almost by definition, it was the students who, economically at least, needed it the least. (Participant B)
The new academic requirements and the threats to decreasing funding for the HOPE scholarship led to several student protests at the state capital. These protests were folded into protests against the arrest of Jessica Colotl and the Board of Regents ban. In addition, before Policy 413 was implemented in fall 2011, UGA administrators were completing a year-long celebration of the universitys 50th anniversary of desegregation. According to one of the faculty members in our study, student activists viewed the anniversary celebrations as a key opportunity to spotlight the extent to which the state was denying students admission into specific institutions of higher education while celebrating the end of the Jim Crow era and denial of educational opportunities for Black students.
[A]ctivities commemorating the desegregation [were] casting it as though the fight against White supremacy was something that happened 50 years ago and it had all been settled. . . . [University administrators] were all congratulating themselves . . . and meanwhile, [the Board of Regents are] putting in place this ban against undocumented immigrants no matter how much money [the students were] willing to pay [to attend college].
The anti-immigration policy and Jessica Colotls arrest resulted in the mobilization of students, faculty, and community groups. In her written account, one of the founding faculty members asked herself, How could I possibly teach Latino/a Studies in a school banning some of the very people we study and teach? (García Peña, 2012, p. 247). She voiced her concerns with her colleagues and in the summer of 2011, the founding faculty of Freedom University brought together various activist organizations, including members of the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA), to discuss what could be done to support students without documentation.
During one particular meeting, a Latino community activist said, These kids want to study and you are professors, why dont you teach them? And then we saw that that was probably the best civil disobedience act we could commit (Participant C). The four faculty began to pool resources together with support from the local community but first relied on traditional modes of teaching and thinking inside the box, as illustrated by their hopes of utilizing UGAs resources:
UGA has the service learning courses . . . and we thought maybe if we reach out to UGA and propose some type of course in which we will be doing volunteer work [for students without documentation] but it would somehow be linked to the university maybe that would be the way to go. But we didnt get any response from the university. Nothing. Not even a yes or a no, just nothing. So, it became clear that it was not going to happen within the structure of the university. So, we just had to create our own space (Participant B).
Before they could begin teaching, the founding faculty had to create the infrastructure for Freedom University, which consisted of securing a learning space, fundraising for books and teaching materials, organizing an admissions application process, and coordinating transportation for students. They also developed an advisory board, continued petitioning the University Council to make a statement about rescinding the Board of Regents ban, communicated with English and Spanish media, and provided access to college resources to the students without documentation.
Securing a physical learning space was based on an intentional decision to gather students without documentation together. Online courses have been available to people regardless of documentation or not. But we were thinking as scholars and as professors, and the idea of a learning community (Participant A). The faculty found that the students were relieved to find others who shared similar experiences in immigration status. The physical space allowed for community building and a space of solidarity. This sense of community building and solidarity contributed to Freedom University becoming a sanctuary of learning and teaching for students and faculty,
In terms of the curriculum offered at Freedom University, the faculty initially offered an interdisciplinary class and we took turns to teach the class. This year we decided to organize it a little different so instead of offering one class that goes through an entire year we are offering shorter classes and each of us is responsible for the class. We can still have the other [volunteers] as invited speaker[s]invited teachers. (Participant C)
The faculty also employed professional networks to create an advisory board of well-known scholars across the country to support their efforts with developing and legitimizing Freedom University as well as sought insights from noted Latino public intellectuals such as Junot Díaz,
[I]t would be important to have the support of scholars and people outside of Georgia that could help us and make decisions, that could advise us in terms of how the class could go about, but also could offer some type of protection for us. Because we didnt know how this was going to turn out. We were going against a ban in the institution that we all were employed by. So, it was important for us to have the support of scholars across the nation. (Participant A)
Participant C also spoke of concerns regarding possible retaliation for establishing Freedom University and stated:
We thought that there was no direct way [UGA could retaliate]. But . . . we felt that . . . we needed that extra support . . . from outside the state of Georgia. And that was also a way to show the authorities here that it was not only us opposing to that measure, that there was a whole community of academics who would reject that measure. [W]e thought that having this group of knowledgeable people showing their support was something that we needed. So that was why we started contacting these people and it was very easy to get them involved. It was just one call or one email and they all said yes.
The founding of Freedom University was a direct response to the ban placed on students without documentation, which involved faculty, student, and community organization and activism. What was first constructed as a place where students could continue their college education transpired into something larger. In her written remarks, Participants A comments, [T]hat very first day it became evident to everyone involved that Freedom University was so much more than a school (García Peña, 2012, p. 249).
These findings represent the voices of three faculty members who founded Freedom University. The research questions guiding this study were: (a) In what ways does Freedom University serve as a sanctuary of teaching and learning from the perspectives of faculty members? and (b) What challenges and successes have been and continue to be experienced by the faculty of Freedom University in developing sanctuaries of teaching and learning for students without documentation? After thorough data analysis and organization of the data by commonalities, two themes emerged that are aligned with several components that characterize schools as sanctuaries: (a) the role of student experiences in shaping curricula and (b) the act of transformational resistance. Within each theme, subthemes of school as sanctuary are explored in order to deepen the complexities of the stories shared. During the research process, we used the notion of school as sanctuaries to theorize the emergent themes.
THE ROLE OF STUDENT EXPERIENCES IN SHAPING CURRICULA
Highly characteristic of schools that become sanctuaries for marginalized students, the faculty in this study expressed that special effort was made to make the curriculum meaningful for students in the classroom. The faculty also understood the power of centralizing students cultural backgrounds, the experiences of immigrants without documentation, and historical underpinnings of the Civil Rights era within the discourse of their curricular practices. Participant A explains, [W]hen I am preparing materials, I question Why are these materials relevant for them? instead of thinking, This is what they have to learn. The needs of students became more imperative as they began to question the banking method of teaching.
The faculty were also aware that the lived experiences of students without documentation would yield a learning outcome in comparison to students whose livelihood was not connected to the course material. These conversations provide a heightened awareness of their students by looking at the curricula through their worldview:
Freedom University students have a real stake in the question [immigration laws]. If you teach the Page Act and Chinese Exclusion to people who are reading debates in Congress over the terrible effects that it will have on America to allow these Mongolians into [the U.S] thats a very different relationship to the material than when I teach it at UGA with these students excluded. So, for me, its a real education to get to see different student perspectives on the same material. (Participant B)
Taking into account the students worldviews as well as perspectives of how these students navigate their social and political realities served as an empowering tool for both the professors and students.
In the same vein, faculty curricular choices were intended to help students intellectualize the immigration climate in the United States by providing them with an understanding about historical roles of immigration,
Ill be teaching . . . history of U.S. immigration, 1898, the Spanish American War and the moment the U.S. oversees imperialism and the debates that went on around that within the U.S. so that the students within Freedom University go into the conversations [about immigration] with some historical grounding on how complex U.S. relations is [sic] with the rest of the world and what role immigration has played in the history of the U.S. (Participant B)
This practice is also in alignment with the notion of school as sanctuaries, as these professors designed their curriculum with the intent to utilize students culture and prior knowledge as a way to construct meaning of their own experiences.
Creating a psychologically and physically safe space for students to grapple and intellectualize the historical and political underpinnings of their immigration statuses while weaving these understandings in their coursework is a hallmark of sanctuary schools. For marginalized students this space has vast potential to cultivate more effective social activists and agents of change.
Another school as sanctuary component inherent in the faculty consisted of their politically progressive teaching strategies, such as incorporating the divisiveness and exclusion of Jim Crow laws into present day experiences with anti-immigration legislation and educational policy within class discussions. Participant B explained that the rationale for the naming of Freedom University was to acknowledge the racism that infiltrated the Southern culture in the past and present:
[B]ehind it [naming of Freedom University] was to do homage to the work that went into to overthrow white supremacy in the South a generation ago, and we [brought into our classroom] a guest faculty member who specializes in the Georgia Freedom Struggle and taught a class using the memoire of the young woman who desegregated the University of Georgia and we teach a class about the civil rights movement more generally, but with that young womans autobiography as the text. So, that was really powerful.
The faculty incorporated the history of the civil rights movement in an effort to help students connect their activism as a part of the contemporary civil rights movement of their generation. Discussions about the machinations of White supremacy also challenged students to critically examine the creation of anti-immigration policies and who benefits from these policies. Ironically, while much of this anti-immigration controversy was occurring in Georgia, the University of Georgia was in the midst of celebrating 50 years of desegregation at the institution, a topic that was vigorously discussed at Freedom University.
TRANSFORMATIONAL RESISTANCE IN TEACHING AND LEARNING
The purpose of transformational resistance (Solórzano & Delgado-Bernal, 2001) is to provide an intentional space in which students are able to question and grapple with issues of oppression in order to work towards developing a more socially just community. Freedom University faculty members experienced their own transformational resistance by reflecting upon their roles as teachers within the academy. In addition, they also witnessed transformational resistance within their own students. Clearly evident in many of the interviews with these professors was their own intellectual and pedagogical transformations, which occurred as a result of their own involvement with Freedom University. As a result, some of the faculty acknowledged their own privilege and positionality within the immigration discourse:
[I]t doesnt leave you any excuses for not dealing with this [anti-immigration]. It makes the question of U.S. and the world very, very immediate and very personal. . . . And seeing students who are willing to put everything on the line the way these people are leaves you with no excuses for not doing the right thing at your workplace, or publically as a citizen, because whatever I do, Im never coming remotely close to what theyre risking. So, if there are situations where youre tempted to pull back and protect yourself or not put it out there and you remember that every week you are responsible to a group of people who could at any minute be shipped off to a country they dont even know, or who have to set up phone trees so that their mom driving home from her second job doesnt go through a checkpoint, that keeps things in perspective. (Participant B)
In this instance, the work by these professors at Freedom University and more specifically, their work with students without documentation, has become a personal passion. Based on our interviews with the faculty members, we have learned how their deep sense of care has cultivated a sense of solidarity with students without documentation who are affected daily by anti-immigration policies. Their ethic of care for their students has also prompted faculty to stand in solidarity with students through social action. Participant B recounts, Weve gone down to the capital. . . . Weve done op-eds and interviews and tried to be part of the voice of overturning that ban, and thats really, at least for me, the priority. The faculty participants also noted the great responsibility that comes with providing higher education to students without documentation due to the great sacrifices their students endure to even attend Freedom University, such as length of travel and loss of potential income. With these sacrifices in mind, the faculty appreciated how students value the learning process, even without tangible rewards such as academic credit. Participant C further remarked,
[T]eaching at Freedom U has taught me . . . to believe more in the essence of learning and learning for the sake of learning, not to get a degree necessarily or to get a job, because the students are not getting credits. This is not making them richer in any ways financially, but they have such joy for learning, and theyre so committed to that.
Witnessing the students placing value on their educational processes also prompted the faculty to make meaning of their own place within the scheme of academia. Interestingly, Participant A regarded her work with Freedom University as a separate component of her teaching and research at UGA and considered Freedom University as service work. However, Participant C pointed out how her work with Freedom University has made the connection between research and community more explicit:
My area of research has to do with my interests in the issues that happen in the community but sometimes . . . ..its hard to see the links between both things. . . . But . . . sometimes you lose the connection between what is going around and what you are producing as an academic. Through this project I found a way in which academics can be useful for the community.
How the faculty perceived their work with Freedom University and its connection to their existing scholarship and teaching agenda is telling. Perhaps the relationships between the community and the academy may not be viewed as a valued contribution towards tenure or other formal reward structures. However, the pedagogical transformations experienced by the faculty as a result of their work with Freedom University was even more compelling when the transformations occurred among the students in their courses:
One of the things that we see constantly is students that might be very conservative coming in, who are really afraid of telling other people that they are undocumented, then at the end of the year, end up being like the biggest activists and speaking about going on the Undocu Bus and getting arrested, and were like, Whoa, wasnt this the kid that didnt even want their name in the media before? So, we see that a lot, and its certainly not that were pushing it, its among themselves talking to each other and sort of sharing, and feeling supported by 30 other people, you become braver. (Participant B)
Witnessing how the curriculum and community of students served as mechanisms for developing critical consciousness was rewarding for the faculty. Freedom University enabled students to build solidarity with one another. During the early stages of creating Freedom University, the faculty did not expect to see the bonds and sense of community formulate so quickly, although they recognized that community building was the most important thing that were doing in Freedom U, to allow for a space thats safe, to share their stories, to meet other people who have similar stories (Participant A). Freedom University has become a counter-space that cultivates confidence, validation, persistence, a sense of belonging, and exploration of self among students without documentation.
The findings from this study describe the unique ways that faculty at Freedom University shaped this sanctuary of learning for students without documentation. For example, the faculty described the importance of establishing caring relationships with their students and structuring intellectual dialogues that rely on a culture of psychological and physical safety. The faculty also discussed the importance of connecting with progressive curricular content and materials while encouraging their students to become agents of social activism.
The faculty richly described the ways in which their students inspired them to rethink their own teaching and learning, as the participants brought their Freedom University experiences to their teaching at UGA. This faculty relearning provided further evidence that their students touched them intellectually just as much as they developed their students intellectually. Hence, they became their students students, a central characteristic of schools that serve as sanctuaries.
Another interesting implication of these findings centers on the emergence of other Freedom University models in Mississippi, Alabama, and California. At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), National Dream University was introduced in August 2012 with the focus of providing affordable education to students without documentation through online platforms. Interestingly, due to political scrutiny from constituencies and politicians, UCLA ended the plans for commencing National Dream University. While UCLA cites (UCLA Ends Plans, 2012) procedural infringements that led to abandoning this online certificate program, many conservative critics were outraged that students without documentation were receiving a better deal on the cost of education than their counterparts who have citizenship (Cowan, 2012). This not only exemplifies how the issue of creating spaces of teaching and learning is politically charged but how many sectors of society continue to position students without documentation as undeserving of any form of education. We encourage further research on how online instruction can construct sanctuaries of teaching and learning.
The founding faculty of Freedom University told us that they volunteered their time and resources to provide students college-level courses regardless of their immigration status, because they believe that separate and unequal access to higher education contravenes this countrys most cherished principles of equality and justice for all, as students without documentation are sorted to community colleges and denied opportunities to apply to the most selective institutions in the state (Freedom University, 2011, para. 1). As long as there is restrictive access to higher education for students without documentation, counter-spaces like Freedom University will continue to exist; nevertheless, the hope is that these sanctuaries of teaching and learning will have a shelf life. [Freedom University is] still very new, its the second year, but . . . we dont have a 10-year plan. We just take it . . . day-by-day and hope to continue to do the work that we love doing and that the students want (Participant A). One of the faculty members at Freedom University in her written reflection commented,
Freedom University is not the solution to the injustices affecting immigrant youth in the state. Therefore, our main goal continues to be the reversal of the ban against undocumented students and the implementation of state policies that would make education accessible for all qualified students, regardless of their immigration status. (García Peña, p. 249)
These sentiments position Freedom University as a temporary solution or as a holding pattern for students without documentation. If and when the ban is lifted and students without documentation are able to attend the selective higher education institutions in the state of Georgia, there should not be a need for Freedom University.
However, as we honor the testimonies of the faculty members who serve as allies to the students at Freedom University, we cannot ignore the consequences if Freedom University is discontinued during the time period in which anti-immigration sentiments prevail. While Freedom University is not a substitute for a degree-granting institution, we question whether other institutions of higher education can serve as schools of sanctuary in order to enhance the success, persistence, and graduation of students without documentation. Is it possible to create sanctuaries of teaching and learning in large institutions that may not have a general curriculum and are often mired in bureaucracy and decentralized organizational structures? Certainly the first step is to craft policy that is inclusive of students without documentation, but this does not necessarily lead to finding sanctuary.
Based on the findings, we believe that the creation of Freedom University is indeed a sanctuary in the sense that, like the Freedom schools, it provides a safe physical and psychological space for students without documentation to engage in a learning process with teaching that honors them as fully human. And it does so without vilifying and framing them as undeserving. Our evidence suggests that Freedom University allows students without documentation to be fully human in ways that traditional postsecondary education structures in Georgia do not, because in many of these institutions, there remains institutional racism. This racism predicates the notion that students without documentation are less than human, hence their exclusion from these predominately institutions. In our view, based on the work described here, bans on students without documentation will not disempower them or their communities. On the contrary, if higher education institutions continue to engage in acts of racist exclusion, then students without documentation, progressive teachers, and community members will continue to construct their own spaces of learning.
1. We choose to use the phrase students without documentation in order to critically problematize the ways this student population is usually positioned with their immigration status at the center rather than their humanity.
2. Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee had the highest rates of growth in White, Black, and Latino populations during this time period (Kochhar et al., 2005).
3. We employ the terminology used in studies that are cited.
4. The Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) Scholarship was established in 1993 through a lottery amendment to fund the first two years of in-state tuition at a public college or university in Georgia. The parameters of the scholarship have changed through the years, and HOPE now covers four years and offers some funding for private institutions. To date, over 1.5 million students have received funding from the HOPE Scholarship totaling $6.3 billion (Georgia Student Finance Commission, n.d.).
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APPENDIX A. FREEDOM UNIVERSITY FACULTY INTERVIEW PROTOCOL
Could you give me an overview of your job responsibilities/duties at Freedom University? Do you have other responsibilities at another institution? If so, please describe those responsibilities.
Could you share a brief overview of Freedom University?
Probing Question A: Could you explain what prompted the creation of Freedom University?
Probing Question B: How is Freedom University funded?
Probing Question C: What have you observed is the driving force for funding decisions pertaining to Freedom University?
Has your involvement at Freedom University changed your philosophy on teaching and learning? If so, in what ways?
Can you describe particular teaching and learning strategies and retention and recruitment efforts offered by you at Freedom University?
In what ways has the Board of Regents decision to prohibit undocumented students from applying to five Georgia colleges affected how you facilitate teaching and learning to undocumented students?
Probing Question A: How has this decision affected the students at Freedom University?
Probing Question B: How has this decision affected you as a faculty member at Freedom University?
To what extent are you supported as a faculty member Freedom University to teach undocumented students? Can you provide examples?
Probing Question A: What advice would you give to institutions in the state that are considering starting a Freedom University-like institution for undocumented students?
Probing Question B: What resources (e.g., financial, personnel, office space) are available to you so that you feel effective in your work?
To what extent are you challenged as a faculty member at Freedom University in teaching undocumented students? Can you provide examples?
Probing Question A: Can you describe strategies for overcoming potential obstacles?
Probing Question B: What advice would you give faculty members/administrators who are facing challenges in serving undocumented students?
What additional thoughts, ideas, or concerns do you have about serving undocumented students today and in the future?
APPENDIX B. SAMPLE TRANSCRIPTION CODING
Question: How has your involvement within Freedom University changed just your own philosophy on teaching and learning?
Code Index: VE= Value of Education; VL=Value of Learning; PA= Pedagogical Approaches; CTL=Collaborative forms of Teaching and Learning; LBSE=Learning beyond Structures of Education
Yeah I have not think much of what are the changes but . . . Being in Freedom University class is a total different experience than being in at the University of Georgia class because of these students are committed to the class in a very different way than at UGA are. I think they are more focused. Some of them are activists but some of them are not. And they have not been in a college class before so this is a new experience for them. So they still are very invested in coming to class. Some of the students come travel two hours to get to the class (VE). I think they know that exactly what is at stake and exactly what they are gaining and what they could lose, if they dont come to class. And I dont see that sense of purpose clearly in all of our students at UGA (VL). So, you know they are in class because they want to learn and they know this is a big effort for them were other students at UGA are here many because they want but they would rather be calling or using their phone or Facebook [laughter] (VL). In class time. Not all of them of course but uhm. So that you know, yeah maybe the biggest change in my teaching is that now Im thinking when Im preparing materials why are these materials relevant for them instead of thinking this is what they have to learn (PA). I dont know. I see some of that on my teaching at UGA now too. Trying to think twice why I am including this on the syllabus. And the answer is not that every student has to know it its wow this is teaching them this. Or they can read this in these materials. I dont know. I dont have it clear because I havent thought much of this yet. I think this is something I we would need to do at some point.
Oh, thats a really interesting question. I have to say its been great for, from a very selfish point of view; its been great for my teaching to have to look at each aspect of American history that I traditionally deal with from this perspective. And I look at my lectures, every year I dump last years lectures into a folder for the next year and then tinker with them from there. So, I have a sort of archive of my own teaching and I can see just how much more prominent these questions have become to what I teach, period. Like theres just no getting away from questions of racialized citizenship at any point in American history and I cant seem to find anything that I lecture about any more that doesnt somehow touch on this (PA). Its given me a reason to read a literature that again, this isnt my area of expertise by any means, and in a weird way, I whined up doing this in part because my expertise is on the right, is on the other side. And so I can recognize some of what goes on from that perspective, but it means that Ive had to keep abreast of at least some of the scholarship in critical race studies and in history of immigration, and its put me in touch with a group of scholars that I, just on the basis of what we work on, I wouldnt be in touch with. And thats been really very enriching for what Im able to teach both at UGA and then at Freedom University (PA). And of course, I had the benefit of getting to be part of the class that was involving peoples expertise from a bunch of different areas that, again, I wouldnt normally be exposed to. So, I learned a lot team teaching. Participant A and I have some experience teaching together before anyway, and because of her, Ive spent now a fair amount of time in Mexico and Central America and Spain and done research in those areas. But its different when you then have to turn around and put it into a narrative and teach it as part of U.S. history (CTL).
Its made it stronger, if you will. Like teaching at Freedom U has taught me a lot about sort of to believe more in sort of the essence of learning and learning for the sake of learning, not to get a degree necessarily or to get a job, because the students are not getting credits. This is not making them richer in any ways financially, but they have such joy for learning, and theyre so committed to that (VL). And as a teacher, thats what you want to see in the future in class. So, to kind of have that experience and to know that there are so many people out there that want to learn and that value what youre doing as a teacher, its really rewarding and it just makes you a better teacher (LBSE). And I think it makes me a better teacher at UGA to have had this experience.
M: Are there particular strategies that youve used now that may have, you never thought about using until you started at Freedom U in terms of your teaching or how a classroom runs?
Well, Ive become more interested in collaborating with other faculty members in teaching. Ive noticed because the four of us were co-teaching a class at the beginning, we had to share the space, and share the classroom, and share the grading (CTL). And that has its set of challenges, but its also really exciting for the students and in the class evaluation, that was one of the things that they enjoy the most about the course at Freedom U. So, of course I cant do that with the same liberty at UGA, but I have implemented a more or I have more interest and reach out to more people at the university to come and lecture for one day under expertise thats related to the syllabus, and I think thats one particular specific thing thats come out of that experience.
This year Im teaching again the Intro to Latinos Studies class, I have 125 students, its a very large class, and when Im teaching about Spanglish , for instance, Ive ask one of my colleagues whos a linguist to come and sort of give the linguistic perspective because I do culture studies, so I cant do that. And students really enjoy that and have had her to come read, and so shes kind of using the resources at UGA to enrich the classroom with different faculty members and even community members that have something that they can contribute (CTL). So, in that sense, yes, I guess so.