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September 04, 2013 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2013-09-04

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"How has student
activism changed at
the 'U'?"
with Assistant Professor Stephen
Ward and Professor Scott Campbell

4, 2013

Assistant Prof. Stephen Ward
who teaches courses in urban stud-
ies, community development and
African-American studies and
Communication Studies Prof. Scott
Campbellmetat The MichiganDaily
newsroom to discuss this question.
below are selected excerpts from
their conversation.
Prof. Scott Campbell: One of
the things I've noticed with stu-
dents over the last couple of years
is it seems like they're feeling an
increasing amount of pressure to
be involved in various social causes
and volunteer organizations and
things for the sake of getting that
scholarship, or even getting that
job or that internship, in bolstering
their resume and getting their leg

up. It just seems like they're feeling
a lot more pressure to do that then
they used to.
Prof. Stephen Ward: Almost
like, for lack of a better term, the
professionalization of activism or
really, engagement. That's a word
that's used a lot now and covers a
wide range... Really what do we
mean by student activism? What
counts as activism? What consti-
tutes activism?
So we can sort of talk about what
we've seen there and we can also
talk about student activism, having
been in another time period.
I think a lot of activist energy has
been transformed into what we call
engagement in many ways, so social
service, activities, service learning

activities, so you referenced it in
terms of students feeling the pres-
sure to do these things for their
resume, right? So that's for their
personal, which is very different
from the sense of social responsibil-
ity that we might think of previous
generations like the '60s generation.
SC: Right. When I was offered

my position here ... I had kind of the
preconceived notions of what the
culture is like at the University of
Michigan from kind of a stereotypi-
cal point of view.

SW: Such as, what would that
SC: Historically, I think of Mich-
igan as avery progressive place with
protests, you know? Vietnam-era
protests, Civil Rights protests. And
I got here, and I felt like the activ-
ism that I saw was highly engaged,
but, to use a word that you dropped,
professionalized in a way. People in
the B-school bolstering resumes...
SW: Right, right.
SC:... and that kind of thing. And
it felt like they were a little bit more
personally ambitious in their goals
than collectively trying to change
the world.
SC: Itdoes feel to me, and again I
wasn't here a generation or two ago,
but it does feel to me that student
activism is happening perhaps a bit
more in concert with institutional
SW: Oh absolutely.
SC: ... rather than oppositional.
So I would say that probably at least
seems to be one of the major differ-
ences in terms of the visible forms
of activism.
SW: Absolutely. I mean, we're
here in the Daily offices and around
the room they have past front pages

and a couple of them deal with stu-
dent activism, one of them is a stu-
dent climb up of this very building
protesting how the University was
dealing with Student Publications.
Others are from the '60s dealing
with things off campus as well as
challenging the University. A couple
of them are about affirmative action,
so at the time you and I have been
here, it seems to me two of the main
spaces of student activism which
were more generally active in terms
of challenging the University and
things across society were affir-
mative action about a decade ago,
and more recently tuition equal-
ity, which is going to be in the news
SC: Right.
SW: So I see those as students
engaging with issues that are relat-
ed to them here on campus - hap-
pening here on campus but having
broader social implications. So the
protests are prodding at the Uni-
versity to do something for affir-
mative action same as the policy
which now has been changed with
tuition equality for students who
are so-called undocumented ... So,
tuition equality, my understanding,
is that all the students, many of the
students, who are involved in that
struggle are not themselves stu-
dents who would benefit, and they
see that as an issue. In the affirma-
tive action case it was less so, but,
still, many white students were
involved in affirmative action, so
that's not a particularly important
point, but that's what I think about
how activism takes place.


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