Media Arts undergraduate students enrolled in my “Digital Literacies and Social Activism” course (MRTS 4450) have the opportunity to critically consider how they can use media as a tool to advocate for social change and justice. Groups have worked on projects related to: racial equity, gender equity, representations of women in the military, advocating for teens in foster care, reproductive justice, ending street harassment, and environmental justice. Some groups collaborate with UNT’s Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion in ways that were mutually beneficial to the students and the university. This is a selection of some of the students’ activist campaigns from three different semesters.
We Aren’t Satisfied was created by The CORE campaign in fall 2015. Eva Arreguin, Micah Autry, Seth Gamaz, and Joelle Savage, produced a campaign focused on the lack of diverse faculty on campus. “We want more leaders who look like us,” explained the four Media Arts students of color. The group tweeted the link to the video to President Smatresk, students, and campus organizations and used the hashtag #WeArentSatisfied. The video caught the attention of the administration who invited the students to a meeting to start an ongoing conversation about how to increase faculty diversity. Almost two years later, the video continues to influence discussions about race and ethnicity on campus. It’s exemplary of how to can build advocacy into coursework and validate students’ voices and experiences in ways that can make a change.
The campaign Linking Leaders focused on issues of diversity and inclusion on campus. The group – comprised of Troy Garrick, Maygun Flanagan, Catherine Thomas, and Preston Webber – created a pledge that encouraged student organizations to collaborate with each other in ways that more explicitly acknowledged students’ intersectional identities. They were in frequent contact with Shani Barrax Moore, Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, who invited them to film and produce a video of this year’s Equity and Diversity Conference with keynote speaker Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry. Their video is featured on the Equity & Diversity website and will be used to promote future conferences and to recruit future keynote speakers, panelists, and sponsors.
The Bring Back the F word campaign focused on bringing back the F word…feminism that is. As a team, the four students – Courtney Babb, Hector Escobedo, Mallory Hagman, and Yeraldin Ronquillo – conducted research about students’ attitudes of gender equality. They went to the sidewalks of the UNT campus to gauge students’ opinion on gender equality and feminism. An overwhelming amount of students who agreed to talk to them said that they supported gender equality in every sense of the term. However, as their video suggests, a lot of these same people who claim to support gender equality do not identify with the feminist movement. Their campaign aimed to change that.
This group’s mission was to highlight restaurants in Denton that are making strides to be eco-friendly so consumers could make smart choices about where to spend their money. Using Google maps, the group – Erin, Jordan, Robbie, and Randi – created a customized map that rated local restaurants based on their environmental impact. They also created a humorous and effective video to communicate their message.
Another campaign, Do It Right, aimed to end sexual assault at UNT through sexual education. In addition to hosting a panel with representatives from resource centers on campus and around Denton, the group also worked with Inya Baiye, the Director of Equal Opportunity, Title IX and ADA coordinator at UNT. Currently, campus administrators are actively working to understand and address the nation-wide problem and they are seeking student input as well – for example, through a campus-wide survey about sexual education and assault. The Do It Right campaign included Jake Forsher, Madi Holland, Maria Lempke, and Alexander Leyva – who agreed to produce a video about students’ views about UNT’s approach to sexual education and assault. The Title IX office will screen the video as part of the university’s strategic plans to help create a safer and more equitable campus.