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November 26, 2014 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-26

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Wednesday, November 2, 2014 // The Statement 5B








with a de
pour buc
and ther
both aw
on July
than $11
million s
on ice bu
regular p
"Have yo



the end of the summer, as students This was 21st century activism in all its
ere finishing internships or returning Internet-driven glory. While there were many
om traveling abroad and they were hit concerns raised about the challenge, the
luge of ice water - the ALS ice bucket impact is undeniable, and speaks to a momen-
e. This was an Internet challenge in tous change in the way activism functions in
support of the ALS Associa- our highly interconnected world. This mani-
tion, which raises money for fests itself through major campaigns like the
research for the debilitating Ice Bucket Challenge, and also within activist
motor neuron disease, also groups at the University of Michigan.
known as Lou Gehrig's dis- The University has always had a reputation
ease. Participants around for grassroots activism - ever since President
the world were challenged to John F. Kennedy chose to announce the plans
ckets full of ice water on their heads for the Peace Corps on the steps of the Student
n donate to the organization, raising Union in 1960, Ann Arbor has been an unof-
areness of and contributions to ALS ficial center for liberalism and social justice,ia
. Since the challenge was launched role that stretched through the Vietnam pro-
29, the foundation has collected more tests of 1969 and the anti-apartheid movement
.5 million in donations, with over 28 that took over campus in the late '80s. This
ocial media posts, comments or likes culture of activism is still very mu resent
ucket videos, according to BBC News on campus, but admittedly can look a bit differ-
e. Celebrities, athletes, politicians and ent from the sign-toting hippies of yesteryear.
eople all participated, building into a Hashtag activism is the new norm at the Uni-
u done it? Have you?" mania. versity, with social media taking the forefront
in student social justice
A new platform
"Socialmedia and infor-=
mation communication
technology, that's the infra,
structure that we now have, that people have
access to," said Scott Campbell, the Pohs pro-
fessor of Telecommunications and associate
professor within the Communication Studies
department. "That's the platform
upon which activism takes place."
Social media's impact can be seen
in multiple student movements over
the past year. The hashtag #Black-
LivesMatter quickly gained trac-
tion this week on social media
in response to the grand jury
decision not to charge Officer
R ARTS EDITOR Darren Wilson in the shooting
of Ferguson teenager Michael
Brown, resulting in protests
and vigils around the country.

One such vigil occurred on campus this Tues-
day at 6 p.m. Over 1,200 users said they were
attending the event on Facebook, which saw
a large gathering on the Diag by students and
community members that featured five speak-
ers, and then a march to the Ann Arbor City
Council Building.
Another student movement occurred when
The Black Student Union led the nationally-
recognized campaign, Being Black at U of M,
which started in fall 2013, and led to further
action in January. The campaigngarnered mil-
lions of impressions online and over 500,00
tweets containing the hashtag #BBUM, shar-
ing the experiences and challenges of Black
students on campus. Representatives from the
BSU were featured on national news platforms
like CNN and in the New York Times, and their
widespread success propelled them topropose
seven demands of the University, ranging from
a more welcoming multicultural center to a
mandated 10 percent representation of Black
students on campus as a proportion of the over-
all student body.
Engineering senior Robert Greenfield, BSU
treasurer, said that the immediate success
of the campaign took the group by surprise,
and demonstrated the power of social media
"BBUM was a very volatile time for the Black
community," Greenfield said. "Trayvon Martin
happened that summer, there was the Theta Xi
incident and alot of incidents like that around
the nation."
The Theta Xi incident, which was an impe-
tus for the BSU's campaign and their seven
demands, refers to a frat party invitation
sent out on Facebook in Nov. 2013. The party
was entitled "Hood Ratchet Thursday" and
the invitation featured racially offensive and
appropriating depictions of Black culture.
"We just needed to get people together, get
over these grudges, maybe get 200 tweets and
that will be that," Greenfield said. "Obviously,
we were kind of blindsided."
Mere months after BBUM went viral, anoth-
er protest rocked the University, as Students
Allied for Freedom and Equality launched

the boycott, divestment and sanctions move-
ment at the University, a campaign demanding
the University divest from companies alleg-
edly providing services to the Israeli govern-
ment that support their actions in Palestine.
This movement came with its own hashtag,
#UMDivest, and discussion of the protest took
over campus and other campuses around the
country. While SAFE emphasized physical
presence over online campaigning, they used
social media to bypass rules in Central Student
Government meetings that do not allow any
speaking during official proceedings.
"Our frustrations (were) with the things
that were said (during the CSG meetings), we
couldn't keep talking to the person next to us,
so we went to Twitter and posted stuff like
'This was what was just said, " said LSA sopho-
more Mekarem Eljamal, current SAFE spokes-
person and Outreach chair.
Not all social media-based moments of
activism on campus have received such levels
of attention as BBUM or BDS - which is not
to say other groups haven't used social media
to make a positive impact. LSA senior Meera
Desai, a member of the Vietnamese Student
Association, recalls an event that occurred
last November while University students were
visiting Michigan State University for a foot-
ball game, in which they were called racially-
offensive terms by MSU students. In protest,
the group posted a letter to their Tumblr page,
addressing the prevalence of anti-Asian racism
at Midwestern as well as national universities.
The letter received responses of support from
across the country, reaching diverse communi-
ties in ways only possible through the Internet.
"Social media has definitely helped my orga-
nization realize that it's a message that can
get to a lot of people on a national level," Desai
said. "It's not a singular event, it's not random
encounter, it's part of something bigger."
Building a network
While the ubiquity of social media in our
lives and in social justice is evident, the ulti-
mate impact of the use of technology within

activism is still hotly debated. However, both
academics and students agree that social media
has created a new space for marginalized
groups, bridging gaps in unprecedented ways.
Information graduate student Jean Hardy
specializes in the ways social media and
new information systems impact those with
oppressed identities, particularly within the
LBGTQ community.
"People who may have feelings about their
sexuality or their gender at a younger age now
find wafe to find community online, in places
like Twitter or Tumblr," Hardy said. "They
kind of build a network of support that way
without actually having to be physically locat-
ed in an epicenter of gay or trans life, like Chi-
cago or Seattle or San Francisco."
Desai also believes that social media has
contributed to community building, citing her
own mixed ethnicity as a catalyst for finding a
community with shared experiences online.
"I think social media has helped a lot," Desai
said. "It has helped people meet each other,
people who are invested in the same causes and
have the same identities and experiences."
Just as websites like Twitter and Tumblr
have the ability to connect those who may
have been adrift before, the advent of messag-
ing technology also allows groups to mobilize
quicker than ever.
In October, more than 1,000 students, in
one of the largest on=campus protests in years,
rallied at the University President's house,
demanding that he fire now-former Athletic
Director Dave Brandon. The protest was orga-
nized in less than two days, mobilizing partici-
pants through a widely shared Facebook event
and cell phone communication. While this
protest drew ire from many students - even
prompting a viewpoint in The Michigan Daily
questioning the turn out to protest Brandon
in response to a football game rather than the
Brendan Gibbons sexual assault case - it also
was a compelling demonstration of our genera-
tion's ability to use technology to organize in
ways unheard of before.
"(The Dave Brandon protest) is a great
example of how (students) were able to mobi-

lize so nimbly with each other, getting the
word out through text messaging and social
media to raise awareness about this protest,"
said Campbell, who focuses on emerging media
and mobile communications. "I think that kind
of thing absolutely was possible in the past, but
I don't think it would have been pulled togeth-
er as quickly as it was in this particular case."
Grounding a movement
Social media allows information about phys-
ical events to have a greater reach at a much *%m
faster pace, connecting individuals with an
ease very different from the grassroots move-
ments of decades ago. However, social media
can also breed a culture of laziness in activism
- wider reach sometimes means the dissolu-
tion or misrepresentation of a cause or identity.
This phenomenon goes under multiple names
- slacktivism, keyboard courage, click activ-
ism, armchair activism - but they all encom-
pass the idea that it's easy to "like" a social
issue without really investing in it.
"Social media, for all causes, can bastardize
the cause if there is no materialistic effort that
extends outside the Internet ethos into what is
reality," Greenfield said. "For us, (the material-
istic effort) was blacking out the wall in Angell
After the BBUM hastag went viral, the Black
Student Union covered a wall in Angell Hall in
black paper and had students write anecdotes
and phrases regarding their experiences as
Black students at the University. The action did
not go unnoticed on campus.
"I feel like (for) so many white students at
U of M, that was their first exposure to insti-
tutional racism just being talked about in gen-
eral," Hardy said.
The success of the BBUM campaign
required the BSU to step back and reevaluate
its demands - with great reach comes great
"It really forced us to do a lot of research and
put in a lot of time, not only to come up with
what would then be the seven demands, but to
See ACTIVISM, Page 68









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