In-Class Reflexive Analysis Writing Prompt

Throughout May Term, our class has explored a variety of issues that are prevalent on our campus and discovered ways that we can study these issues with an intellectual lens with the hope of implementing positive changes. Each group tackled a different issue that encompassed unique obstacles and methods of investigation, delivery, and execution/application, but we all learned very significant lessons about everything it takes to address an issue and propose solutions to authority figures on campus that will help us in the future when we face similar challenges. For instance, my action project helped me understand that there are countless things that need to be considered when critically analyzing an issue on campus. It is one thing to simply state that there is a problem; what this class helped me understand is that I must examine the issue like a Rubik’s cube. The colors and sides of a Rubix’s cube exemplify how there are all sorts of factors that I must consider in order to thoroughly understand my issue so that I can properly address it and ultimately propose the best, most feasible solutions.

If my partner and I did not examine our issue from as many angles as we could, then we might miss important details, which influence the solutions we propose. For example, my partner and I addressed the issue that students with mental health concerns and disabilities need more agency, better accommodations, and a support group. Once we identified the issue that we wanted to fix, we had to look at it like a Rubik’s cube, mentally moving the problem around to view it from every angle. Viewing our issue like this allowed us to understand it as best as possible. It directed us to which administrator or faculty/staff member could help us implement the changes we wanted to see, which allowed us to understand what is already being done to help these students so that we could simply build upon these ideas rather than suggest solutions that are already being done. This action project helped me understand what is possible to do (and propose) in a short period of time, what I as a student am capable of proposing, what type of disability services are being offered and how they can be used in ways they are not already, and what it takes to address these issues with the appropriate stakeholder within Transy’s network of administration, faculty, and staff.

As I reflect on what I have learned throughout this May Term course, I realize that understandings and skills I have gained will help me outside of the class room and Transy bubble as well. Speaking with different staff members on campus (i.e. Ashley Hill, Amber Morgan, Hunter Williams, and Michelle Thompson) helped me understand what sort of questions I should ask, how I should present problems to authority figures, and how to make my proposals and voice heard in a constructive manner. When I start my job after graduation, I think these tactics will be incredibly important. I will be serving as AmeriCorp VISTA for a nonprofit and I am sure that there will be times when I can (or should) offer my perspective about certain processes, operations, issues, and more. The experience that this class gave me have prepared me for the “real world” by giving me the opportunity to know how to voice concerns and solutions to authority figures as well as how to implement relatable scholarship about the issue in my proposal.

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Feedback from Our Class Presentation Yesterday

Yesterday we presented our project proposal in class. Based on the feedback we got from the class and our own reflection, here are some things that we fixed and plan to address:

  • One piece of feedback that we got was to explain our pie chart better so that it is not misleading. For instance, we clarified that the graph is something we made on our own based on information we got from Transy’s website and the U.S. Census Bureau’s website. Anther student also expressed that she was slightly confused about one part of the pie chart so we clarified that.
  • Another student asked a question about confidentiality and how we would handle the possibility that a student expressed very personal, concerning information (i.e. the possibility of harming themselves). We would try to reach out to the student privately, tell them about the resources available to them, and address the situation further to see what steps need to be taken.
  • We realized that we need to make it clear that the program or student organization is open to all students, not just students with mental health concerns or other disabilities. Allies are encouraged to attend meetings and events; allies are also encouraged to serve as a supporter.

We made changes based on the feedback we received because we realized that these suggestions were very valid and it is important that we fix them in order to make things more clear.

Feedback from the Workshop with the TUWC Consultants

After meeting with Kiara, we reviewed how we wanted to proceed on certain parts of our project. For example, Kiara suggested that we try to incorporate more academic research in order to demonstrate how students with mental health concerns and other disabilities are impacted by these issues, which ultimately influences most, if not all, aspects of their Transy experience. Although we had already started doing this, we dove into do more academic to support why our issue is so important and crucial that we address as soon as possible. Some of the research we’ve compiled so far we have pasted below.

Important Resources

Bullock, Lyndal M., Eric J. Fritsch, and Hogan, Kathleen A., et al. “Meeting the Transition Needs of Incarcerated Youth with Disabilities.” Journal of Correctional Education, vol. 61, no. 2, 2010, pp. 133–147. <www.jstor.org/stable/23282636>.

In this journal article, the authors express that there are several of reasons that youth with disabilities are overrepresented in correctional facilities; she states three specific reasons—two of which deal with the academic experiences of these young people based on their disabilities. We are not sure if we will reference this data when we present to our target stakeholder, but we believe that it is important nonetheless because it calls attention to how academic performance influences other impacts of students’ lives.

Eckes, Suzanne E., and Theresa A. Ochoa. “Students with Disabilities: Transitioning from High School to Higher Education.” American Secondary Education, vol. 33, no. 3, 2005, pp. 6–20. <www.jstor.org/stable/41064551>.

These authors “examine the challenges students with disabilities face in college, review relevant case law … and provide suggestions” about how high schools and universities can establish programs to assist students with disabilities. We think this research is really helpful because it highlights the importance of how there should be programs that assist students with disabilities, which is exactly what we are proposing 

Tincani, Matt. “Improving Outcomes for College Students with Disabilities: Ten Strategies for Instructors.” College Teaching 52`.4 (2004): 128-32. JSTOR. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Web. 10 May 2017. <www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/27559200.pdf>.

According to Tincani, students with disabilities are less likely to attend postsecondary school than other students; for that reason, Tincani offers ten strategies that professors can utilize to help students perform well in undergraduate school so that they are more likely to attend postsecondary school. We think this journal article is important because it provides useful suggestions that we think the students in the program can build upon and find ways to implement them in the classroom.

Important Facts

  • 1 in 5 people are disabled
  • There is a lack of agency for disabled people.
    • 80% of disabled people are victims to multiple sexual assaults.
    • Disabled people are infantilized because of their disabilities. Giving students on campus agency to talk about and work with their disabilities will help decrease this stigma.
  • Many other schools already have disability organizations/programs that interact with faculty and organize students. They seek to inform students and faculty about can and should be done, in and out of the classroom.
  • What sort of relationship do other student organizations have with faculty/staff?
    • We know that SGA has established a pretty solid connection with administration and faculty (some more so than others). Maybe we could get tips or help from them; perhaps the program could even collaborate with SGA on some events to increase awareness of the program and its events as well as help the program establish connections with administration/faculty/staff. Maybe the students in the programs (if it’s established) could meet with Joey and get some information about this.

Response to Kristen Seas’ Essay

In the essay “Writing Ecologies, Rhetorical Epidemics,” Kristen Seas presents a great deal of insight about rhetorical theory that I believe is related to our class and the various projects each group is researching. Each group is discussing a different issue and proposing various solutions; for that reason, how each group approaches their target stakeholders with these issues and solutions varies. Although we all are trying to help the student body, we are doing it from very different angles, which means that what might work for one group in terms of delivery might not work for another group. Like Seas explains, “what is ‘effective’ at one scale or location … may utterly fail in another context” (Seas 52). That is why I think it is important for every group to think critically and keep their options open because it is important that they find the approach that works best for them so that they can deliver their issue and solutions in the best way possible.

Furthermore, I think Seas touches on another key point when she discusses contingent uncertainty and how rhetoric is not one time occurrence (Seas 52). Rhetoric, like Seas, illustrates does not stop; a rhetorical act does not stop once a rhetor completes one delivery, writes/publishes a paper, etc. Seas describes “rhetoric as an art … is best understood not as an isolated exercise but ‘both as a process of undisturbed emergence and as an ongoing circulation of process'” Seas 53). In other words, rhetoric is an ongoing evolution. We are constantly performing a rhetoric act. I think this is important to keep in mind this May Term because once we present our project to our target stakeholders that does not mean the rhetorical act is over. Hopefully, if our target stakeholder likes our proposal, then perhaps they will initiate some major changes, such as training, workshops, revised classes, etc. Our part may be over after our presentation, but if the target stakeholder wants to implement changes we suggested, then the rhetorical act is theirs now.

Another part of Seas’ essay I enjoyed is the idea of the rhetorical frame as a virus. A virus is what gets people sick (Seas 56). In our case, the virus is the issue we are attempting to fix. In order to intervene and make positive changes, we must undesrtand the virus—or in our case, the issue that is effecting Transy students. For the virus (or a change) to become contagious, it must be infectious. The ideas and solutions that we propose to our target stakeholder must not only be will planned and presented but also memorable and plausible. If it is not memorable or plausible, then our target stakeholder will not take us very serious nor will they attempt to put our proposals into action. To make our solutions proposal, we must deliver our ideas and solutions; in addition, we must provide solid background information to support why we think this issue is important and why it should be fixed.

Questions for Serenity Wright

  1. What are some difficulties/hurdles you have faced at Transy as a student and as a staff member in terms of activism? Do you have any advice based on your experiences?
  2. Was it difficult at all settling into your position as a staff member because you remembered what it was like to be a student here and what it was like to be a student with needs and goals? Did this help you relate to and help students because you could understand what it’s like to be a Transy student, even though things might have been a little different—or very different?
  3. As a staff member, what was the biggest challenge you faced in terms of helping and/or teaching students about activism?
  4. How can we, as students, effectively and appropriately address issues and solutions to Transy’s administration?
  5. How can we prevent (or at least try) administration and faculty/staff from viewing our projects and activist endeavors as a distraction or a nuisance? How can we be taken seriously?
  6. How do you mobilize students and perhaps faculty/staff to support your activism?

Issue Definition and Investigation: Part II

Issue/Problem

  • There is a lack of knowledge and communication regarding students’ mental health concerns and disabilities, which influences the accommodations that students receive from their professors.
  • Justification: It is important that we address this problem and propose solutions because there are great deal of students who have mental illness and other disabilities, which influences all aspects of their lives. It is important that these students receive accommodations from their professors so that they can perform to the best of their ability.

Target Stakeholder

  • Dean Bryan (or her assistant if necessary)
    • We sent her an email on 5/4 and are waiting for a response.
  • We have other secondary stakeholders that our project intends to entail, but ultimately Dean Bryan is our primary stakeholder because she is someone who can help establish our ideas.
  • Justification: She is the Dean of Academic Affairs, and our goal is to change how faculty interact with mentally ill students. She would be great to discuss what changes are feasible to make in this area.

Strategies + Materials

  • Propose that a seminar, workshop, or training of sorts be created that faculty can attend so that they can better understand how to assist students with mental illness properly and accommodate their needs.
  • Propose that a brochure and/or other type of document be created so that faculty can refer to throughout the school year in case they need a refresher.
    • Suggest what type of materials should be on it.
  • We might use some sort of multimodal presentation when we meet with Dean Bryan, but it depends on how we want to present our project/proposal.
  • Encourage people to take our survey if they are willing. Transy students can click here to complete the survey.

Next Steps

  • Meet with Ashley Hill or the disabilities services to see what is already being done to build on those things.
    • We’ve been in contact with Ashley Hill, but the two days that she offered for us to meet with her neither of us could make those times. We said that we appreciated her help and would get back with her soon to try to meet if we still need her help.
  • Wait for Dean Bryan to reply to our email to see if she could meet on May 18 or May 19 (or another day if need be).
  • Compile ideas of what information and resources should be included in the brochure or whatever document we create for faculty to refer to throughout the year.

Questions/Concerns

  • What steps can be made to aid mentally ill and neurodivergent students if the administration won’t have an annual seminar, workshop, etc?
  • How can we talk about accommodations for mentally ill students without insulting the disabilities office or nullifying the aid that they do?
  • Ensure that students are offered aid based on their individual circumstances. Some students might have similar situations, but their cases are very unique despite similar mental illness or other similar situations.

Questions for Teddy

After reading Cassie L. Barnhardt’s text and Georgianna Martin’s text, I have the following questions for our guest, Teddy.

  1. What are some difficulties/hurdles you have faced at Transy when creating your artwork and participating in activism? Do you have any advice based on your experiences?
  2. How can we, as students, effectively and appropriately address issues and solutions to Transy’s administration?
  3. How can we prevent (or at least try) administration and faculty/staff from viewing our projects and activist endeavors as a distraction or a nuisance as Martin explains?
  4. How do you mobilize students and perhaps faculty/staff to support your activism?

What Activism Looks Like on College Campuses

Activism looks different on college campuses for various reasons. For example, activism will be different on our campus versus the University of Kentucky’s campus because we are a private institution and they are public institution. Because we are a private campus, Transy’s administration has more control about what type of behavior, activities, and moreare allowed or not allowed on campus; in addition, they have more control about what disciplinary measures can be taken. This is one reason why activism on our campus looks different than another university, especially a public college like the University of Kentucky.

In the fall of 2014, lots of students at Oberlin protested after the killing of Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old African American boy who was shot by police because they suspected him for having a gun. Bautista, a student at Oberlin, claimed “a lot of [students] started suffering academically” because a great deal of protests happened off-campus, meaning that that students would have to travel great distances if they wanted to be a part of the movements (Heller). In the early 1970s, Oberlin modified its grading standards to accommodate activism around the Vietnams War and Kent State shootings (Heller). This type of accommodation resembles the type of change that I would like to see happen on our campus not only for the purpose of activism but also for students with mental illness and/or other disabilities. Students with disabilities need certain accommodations when it comes to academics, and it is important that their needs are met by the University and its staff.

Following this example of accommodations, Heller goes on to say explain that there exists a common belief held by some that “the new activists are naïve about the demands of the real world” (Heller). In other words, this means that some people believe that those who participate in these new forms of activism (i.e. demand for trigger warnings in college classrooms) are approaching problems incorrectly and demanding unrealistic outcomes. To some degree, I believe that this belief could be directed at our project as well; that is because there is a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about mental health and other disabilities. Because some people, including faculty/staff and administration, do not fully understand how mental health and other disabilities impact students’ academic performance, these same people might not be very receptive of our project/proposal(s).

In order to sell our project and goals as successfully as possible, there are some tactics that we can borrow or adapt from the cases that Heller mentions in her article “The New Activism of Liberal-Arts Colleges.” For instance, Heller mentions how in the nineteenth century, “Harvard professors taught a single, prescribed canon to a single, prescribed social circle,” but because so much more has been discovered since then and because we can—and should—adapt with the times, it is important that educate students with a new system that is the opposite of the old. The new way to teach our students should be one that focuses on the uniqueness of the campus and one that is tailored to fit each student’s needs so that they can succeed.

Collective Activism on College Campuses

I found the two texts that we read very compelling and I think that each provides a great deal of interesting insight about activism on college campuses around the United States. In the article “Collective Action on Campus Toward Student Development and Democratic Engagement,” Adrianna Kezar and Dan Maxey present lots of significant points about how the relationship between students and faculty/staff influence activism on college campuses. For example, the authors emphasize that this relationship is crucial because it impacts how students participate in activism, how students understand activism, and how students foster and sustain their activist efforts. They state that “activism is a vehicle for students’ learning…” because it gives them the opportunity to learn about the democratic process and the various layers of democracy (Kezar et al 32). Because activism plays a key role in students’ learning, it is important that they have mentors (aka faculty and staff) who can guide them and teach them about effective activism. According to Kezar and Maxey, the collaboration of students and faculty/staff is not only sifniciant but also effective; that is because faculty/staff have experience and insight on the campus’ environment and understand how students can actually make their voices heard.

I believe that Kezar and Maxey’s article relates to our project because it is definitely important that we form a strong relationship with our stakeholders, especially the faculty/staff stakeholders. Many of the faculty/staff stakeholders that we have mentioned (Ashley Hinton-Moncer, Dean Covert, Disabilities Services, etc.) have experience with making constructive changes on Tansy’s campus, especially with student life. When it comes to our project, it is important that we use our feedback from these stakeholders effectively so that we can ensure that the needs of students’ with disabilities are met. Those with authority, like Dean Covert, have experience with what works and what does not work in terms of implementing seminars or workshops. Since we would like to provide some sort of training or seminar for faculty so that they can better understand how to assist students with mental health issues, it is important that we understand what does or does not work, which is what these stakeholders have a great understanding of. For example, these stakeholders know what types of learning activities have worked best at Transy for various reasons. For that reason, it is important that we not only listen to their suggestions or concerns but also attempt to apply their recommendations to our project so that we can propose the most effective solutions. If we do not take their feedback into account, then we might not propose the best solution(s).

Furthermore, the other text that we read is written by Nathan Heller for The New Yorker. Heller’s article is titled “The New Activism of Liberal-Arts Colleges,” and he illustrates how current events spark students to react on their campuses. From cultural appropriation to police brutality, Heller explains what the new activism looks like: protests, letters filled with grievances and demands for help/change, op-ed pieces, etc. What is important about this article is that it highlights multiple types of activism; Heller presents these different types of activism as well as highlights how students are seeking change. I believe that this article reflects what we’re doing in our class because each group has a different issue that they are addressing and different ways they are trying to find solutions for these issues. How Shelby and I might analyze our issue and present it to our stakeholders might be extremely different than how other groups do so. With that in mind, I believe it is important for Shelby and I to keep in mind that certain tactics might be better suited for our project in hopes that we meet our end goal.

Ultimately, what I learned from these two texts is that the relationships that exist between students and faculty/staff are incredibly crucial because they help students generate and sustain positive results based on their efforts. In addition, it is important to recognize what types of activism are best suited for certain situations, issues, etc.

Stakeholder Investigation

For our project, we have decided that there are two types of stakeholders: administrators/faculty/staff and students. Shelby and I have established a list of specific administrators, staff, or faculty members that we have considered reaching out to; for the time being, this includes Erinn Foglesong, counselors, Ashley Hill, Ashley Hinton-Moncer, Dr. Todorova, various professors (in order to include different perspectives on this issue), and possibly the Disabilities Service. When we consider the various administrators, staff, and faculty members, it is important to note that some have more authority than others in terms of initiating certain changes. For instance, the administrators, such as particular deans, have the ability to establish mandatory seminars or workshops that faculty must attend as well as how often faculty must attend them. On the other hand, Erinn Foglesong and the rest of the Student Wellbeing office have a great deal experience (individually and combined) leading seminars that are related to mental health as well as Title IX which impacts mental health; for that reason, perhaps they would be best suited for actually leading a seminar or a workshop, unless the administration would rather recruit another professional who is not affiliated with Transy.

Furthermore, from what Shelby has explained to me, Dr. Todorova is very supportive of our project after Shelby spoke with her. Dr. Todorova expressed that she would love to help students with disabilities, but she says that does not have a lot of background knowledge about how to do so properly and effectively. Because of that, I think Dr. Todorova’s statements prove how important our project is. From what I have experienced, it seems that many professors at Transy genuinely care and want to assist students with disabilities, but they simply are not aware how they can do so. There is a lack of understanding, which further inhibits students with disabilities. Based on my personal experiences with Erinn Foglesong, the counselors, and Ashley Hill, I believe that they would all be very supportive of our project and goal to establish workshops and seminars on campus. As far as administration is concerned, I personally believe that it might be a bit more difficult to illustrate why this project and our goals are so important; however, if we provide lots of research as well as have the support of multiple students and various faculty and staff then perhaps

In regards to the second party, which we have identified as students, we have considered creating an anonymous survey to receive feedback from Transy students, Teddy Salazar, Shelby’s friend Bradlee, a friend of mine (if they are willing), and any other way that we could include the student body’s input. I believe that the specific students we have considered reaching out to would be incredibly supportive of our project because they can offer personal experiences. Creating an anonymous survey, although difficult, would give students the chance to express their concerns, past experiences, and more without feeling as though there might be consequences from expressing their grievances. Compared to faculty/staff and the administration, students do not have as much authority and capability of enacting positive change; however, if enough students express concern and enough students support our project, then we, as students, could really have a greater impact than we might think. Not to mention, if we have strong support from faculty and staff, then that would definitely help as well. A risk that could arise for this specific group of stakeholders is if the administration (or perhaps faculty/staff too) are not considerate, transparent, etc. This type of response could be really hurtful to students who really need the help and need a postive response to this issue.