For my community service project I volunteered at a women’s shelter called Safe Harbor over Thanksgiving break. Safe Harbor is a shelter that houses women and children escaping domestic violence situations while also providing food, a place to sleep, safety, counseling, medical services, and educational services for the victims. The event I volunteered at was called “Girls Night Out,” and allowed women to get their hair and makeup done. The event also provided the women of the shelter business clothes which had been donated by a local thrift store. The purpose of this event was to provide the women with necessities and the skills to prepare for future job interviews.
October 29, 2015
When I was a freshman I knew that the Feminist United on Campus (FUC) Club existed, however I never had a strong sense of their presence on campus. I remember seeing their tables on campus walk and the informational sessions they advertised about issues they were concerned with. In my opinion, it was not until last year that FUC truly made their appearance on campus. In the past year, FUC has created quite a stir at The University of Mary Washington (UMW). After all the controversy and chaos in Spring 2015, FUC ended the school year by filing a Title IX complaint against UMW and its administration (Estes 2015). FUC stated that the university “failed to adequately address harassment and threats against students posted to Yik Yak” (Logue 2015). Along with this complaint and their agenda, FUC practices a great amount of routine collective action, such as rallies and peaceful protests. This reaction paper will not only analyze FUC but will also examine their routine collective action in conjunction with resource mobilization theory (RM).
When looking at the FUC organization as a whole, they display a clear sense of purpose and vision. The description on the Feminist United on Campus (FUC) Orgsync page reads:
The purpose of Feminists United on Campus is to educate people of all sexes and genders as to past and present movements of feminism, provide individuals with information and tools to become active members of the feminist cause to further human rights, and to provide individuals with an open, inviting, discussion-based setting in which a diverse group of people can come together to educate one another as to relevant human rights issues. The purpose of Feminists United on Campus is to also reclaim the term “feminism” in a positive light, to dispel many of the harmful myths that are widely believed to be true about feminism as a political and social movement. Lastly, Feminists United on Campus aims to help make positive change on our campus and in our communities (Feminist United on Campus Description).
Social movements, according to RM theory, emphasize that “collective action flows not from breakdown, but from groups vying for political position and advantage” (Useem 1998). In other words, RM identifies that social movements result in a social solidarity among mutually frustrated people that want political change (Class Notes) (McCarthy and Zald 1977). FUC is a connection of individuals who share common beliefs, values, and goals. Through these attributes, the members of this organization find social cohesion with one another. Thus the social solidarity among FUC’s memebers is essential for mobilizing collective action (Useem 1998). In regards to their Title IX complaint against UMW, FUC’s collective action focused on urging universities to have “better guidelines for dealing with anonymous social media threats” (Estes 2015). Their attempts to change UMW along with other universities’ policies would be defined by an RM theorist as a routine collective action because they lobbied peacefully. FUC performed this routine collective action through the press conference they held over the summer in front of George Washington Hall expressing that their organization would be filing this complaint.
Political changes, according to RM theorists, are put into action through the acquisition of resources that aid in propelling the organization toward its ultimate goal (Useem 1998) (McCarthy and Zald 1977). These resources can come in the form of social networks, supporters, media attention, or money (Class Notes) (McCarthy and Zald 1977). FUC’s lobbying efforts have been successful because of their ability to gain and apply their resources. FUC has formed a relationship with the UMW administration, specifically with President Rick Hurley. While this relationship between FUC and President Hurley has been strained at times, having direct contact with him has given them an advantage to press forward in their organizational efforts. FUC is not afraid to go directly to the administration to tell them about their concerns and to suggest solutions for these issues.
FUC also has a strong connection of networks within the UMW community. FUC has gathered supporters from other social justice clubs that has provided them a variety of participants who contain different skills, knowledge, and creative ideas. FUC gained the support of the Feminist Majority Foundation in their campaign to file a Title IX complaint against the university. By having the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national women’s rights organization, on their side gives FUC a social linkage that connects them to the greater political community. The press conference that FUC held in May gave the organization and its agenda media attention. Receiving a significant amount of media attention promotes FUC’s orgniazation and their political goals. Even if this attention is negative, FUC is making themselves known to the wider community. This could be beneficial on their part because they could be reaching out to people who may want to support them in their lobbying.
An RM theorist would see FUC as successfully acquiring and applying their resources to push their political agenda. Their strong social networks and attention in the media, FUC has established a name for themselves in the community. Due to this, FUC sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education that contained 72 signatures from national and local women’s civil rights groups that advocate for “federal guidelines for dealing with anonymous social media threats on campuses nationwide” (Estes 2015). The Office of Civil Rights accepted the complaint and is investigating these allegations. Through their routine collective action and resource mobilization, FUC has established a foundation for themselves to generate effective social change.
FUC is group of members that unite in their shared goal of fighting for equal human rights and they do so by practicing routine collective action. With the acquisition of resources such as creating strong social networks, gaining media attention, and having alliances with leaders in power, FUC offers a better understanding of resource mobilization theory. It is through their social solidarity, goal orientation, and resources that FUC is able to establish themselves as an organization who has the potential to generate effective and permanent social change within the politics of our society.
Estes, Lindley. 2015. “Women’s, civil rights groups urge federal guidelines for anonymous social media threats.” The Free Lance Star, October 21.
Logue, Josh. 2015. “Who Should Prevent Social Media Harassment.” Inside Higher Ed, October 22.
McCarthy, John D. and Mayer N. Zald. 1977. “Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory.” The American Journal of Sociology 82(6): 1212-1241.
Useem, Bert. 1998. “Breakdown Theories of Collective Action.” Annual Reviews Sociology 24: 215-238.
This picture project focuses on two communities in the United States located in Chicago’s Bronzeville and Detroit’s Heidelberg Street. These communities have implemented community art based programs or projects that aimed at reducing gentrifying forces in their community. Through these artistic installations, these two communities have been able to improve the physical surroundings of their neighborhoods, as well as develop a unified network of people by creating social relationships and greater access to resources among community members.
I’m not sure how many of y’all watch South Park, but the newest episode actually centered around the gentrification of the poor and run down part of South Park’s city. I think the episode actually does a really good job of explaining and giving an example of what gentrification is/how it affects a community (while also adding some comedy to it as well). I understand that South Park in the past does push their jokes a little too far and can be borderline offensive. However, it seems that the show is going for a new theme of becoming more “PC” in order to appeal to their viewers. I’m posting the link to the episode below and embedding the “advertisement” of the new swanky additions to the South Park community. Let me know how y’all think this adds to what we have talked about in class. Also, do you think it’s cool for the South Park writers to become more “PC,” yet do it in a comedic way? Or do you think it delegitimizes these important issues?
Reaction Paper 2- Rachael Sturgis
Newspaper Editorial: The Green Development Zone Replaces The Growth Machine
In 2011, The City of Fredericksburg obtained the former Masonic Lodge riverfront property located on 609 Sophia Street (Riverfront Park Project, 2014). The City decided to name this new community plan The Fredericksburg Riverfront Park Project. According to the website, this new riverfront property aims to create “new opportunities for a beautiful outdoor amenity and traction along the banks of the Rappahannock River” (Riverfront Park Project, 2014).
The Fredericksburg website has links to all of the information regarding the Riverfront Park Project. A major strength of the Riverfront Project is that the city assigned a Riverfront Task Force. The Task Force took on the responsibility of coordinating community input along with working with city staff and consultants to produce a realistic Riverfront Park Development Plan (Riverfront Task Force, 2014). The Task Force consisted of various types of people with different positions in the development project. The Task Force included members from City Council, City Staff, Planning Commission, Recreation Commission, Clean and Green Commission, Arts Commission, Economic Development Authority, Friends of the Rappahannock, Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Downtown Merchants Marketing Initiative, Neighborhood Associations, and Shiloh Baptist Church (Riverfront Task Force, 2014). By having members from unique city positions provided the Task Force with a variety of voices. The goals of the Riverfront Park Project also showed that Fredericksburg was invested in making this natural space special and useful to the surrounding community. The goals of the project displayed that the City had thought in detail about the best way to execute this plan. Some of the goals included:
- “Develop a concept level design plan for the Riverfront Park that reflects the aspirations of the city’s citizens and leaders” (Project Background, 2014).
- “Include broad-based community input in the development of a park program and plan for the riverfront site” (Project Background, 2014).
- “Create an open space amenity that will serve both the citizens of Fredericksburg and visitors to the City” (Project Background, 2014).
- “Develop a plan that respects and acknowledges the historic context in which it is located” (Project Background, 2014).
- “Maximize the opportunities presented to develop a park that respects, and works with, the site’s environmental characteristics while, at the same time, connecting people to the river” (Project Background, 2014).
The City and the Task Force sought to include community input in the development plan of this project. Not only did the project committee seek input from Fredericksburg residents, but residents from Spotsylvania and Stafford County as well. Actively asking for community input was a major strength of this project. It is essential to have residents of the community give their opinions regarding future plans of the city. In this case particularly, it was important to have feedback from the community because residents would be using the natural space most often. Not only did the Task Force send out surveys, but they also held open houses for community discussions about the project as well.
Despite this project appearing to having many strengths, it is necessary to identify weaknesses to the project plan. Although I previously identified a strength of the project being that the Task Force sought input from community members, a weakness was that there was not a significant amount of feedback given. According to the Community Feedback Document , only 63 people came to the Open House, 284 responded to the online survey, and 13 posted online comments via the project website. This document did not state how many surveys they sent out, however Fredericksburg has a population of 28,000. This reveals that the there is a lack of civic engagement in the Fredericksburg community. The limited amount of community feedback surprised me because the idea of the Riverfront Park was to have a local, natural space for people of the surrounding counties to come together. Without contributing to the input of the development plans of the park, it is difficult for the community to feel that they had “made” this place for themselves and each other.
At a glance, the Riverfront Project looks like an average city plan to develop a fun, safe, and natural environment for residents and visitors to come together. However, there is an opportunity to discuss the dimensions of power that are displayed with the development plans of this project. The first dimension of power is practiced through the Task Force. The Task Force, which is made up of people from multiple committees, speak for the residents of the community in the decision making process. Sadan discusses how:
“the leaders are not an elite with interests of its own, but represent or speak for the entire public [. . .] because people who have identified a problem act within an open system in order to solve it, then the non-participating, or inaction, is not a social problem, but a decision made by those who have decided not to participate” (Sadan, 1997, 41).
It is to my understanding that the Task Force exemplifies this non-elitist group that speaks for the public. What is great about this example is that the Task Force actively sought participation from the community for their input about the project. However, a minimal amount of feedback was given. The Task Force used their overt power to give the option for the community to have “power” themselves. Only those residents who went to the Open House, completed the surveys, and submitted comments via the website demonstrated active political participation. The City of Fredericksburg could have demonstrated their power over this community project in a more oppressive way. Instead of using the first dimension of power to encourage community participation, the City could have used the second dimension of power. If this had happened, the City Council members would have not made a Task Force and not have asked for community opinions. They would have solely made decisions off of what they deemed to be the best options.
During class, I also discovered that this project is an example of pluralism. From our discussion, I understood that pluralism as that the decisions in society are not made by every person, but by involved persons. Furthermore, these involved persons will change according to the issues taking place in that community during that moment. Residents who participated in the surveys or Open Houses and who were on the Task Force clearly had an interest in this project. These people used their resources (experience, social networks, etc.) to potentially influence the outcome of the final project design and concept.
While this project does have some strong points to it, I also have many unanswered questions and details of the project. I would like to know what type of townspeople answered the survey—was it mainly the upper or middle class? Did race play a factor? Also, will the community’s feedback actually be considered in the final installation of the project? These details were not evident on the resources available on the website. From what I have gathered from the Fredericksburg website and from Dr. Martin, is that the Riverfront Project has not been completed. I want to see if the Task Force and the City used the residents’ input. I would like to check out the space on Sophia Street to see what, if any, development has taken place and then write a follow-up post.