When Students Speak Out: Understanding the Motivations for I, Too, Am Mobilization
by Richard S. L. Blissett, Dominique J. Baker & Benjamin C. Fields - 2020
Background: Beginning in the 2013–2014 school year, students across colleges and universities in the United States created a series of campaigns similar to the original I, Too, Am Harvard photo campaign (which focused on highlighting the negative campus climate for black students at Harvard University).
Purpose: This study illuminates some of the reasons why students decided to mobilize in order to provide a clearer understanding of what students are identifying as problems on college campuses.
Subjects: Evidence in this study is drawn from two sources: student newspapers from campuses with a campaign supplemented by interviews with students who were involved with the campaigns.
Research Design: This qualitative case study uses both the newspapers and the interviews as sources of evidence.
Results: We find that the campaigns were primarily motivated by negative campus climates for students from historically marginalized populations, and that these climates were in place before the movements emerged. The campaigns developed within a larger macropolitical context in which there was a larger focus on inclusion. Also, the movements tended to have a specific focus on exposing microaggressions, providing a space for students to speak out, and expressing solidarity.
Conclusions: If institutions have a vested interest in creating more welcoming environments, then proactively addressing the experiences of students on campus, expanding the scope of diversity initiatives to include this focus, and providing spaces for students to be able to express and discuss their experiences may be critical to success.
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