The purpose of Peace Studies 220 is to study the nature of organizing for social change. Throughout the class, we examined social movements, identifying a movement’s origin story, structure, strategies, how to keep the movement sustainable, and also how to assess the impact of a social movement. We studied organizing tactics on the left and the right, including a field trip to seeing Bread and Puppet Theater, a theatrical, transgressive mode of resistance. Each person in this class came from a different background and expectation of the class, but the one commonality among us was the motivation to learn how to mobilize for social change.
One of the course requirements is a practicum to apply what we learned. We had the option between two routes for the practicum: to individually join an already existing movement in Baltimore and learn by attending meetings and actions, or to work together as a class and create our own mobilization force among us. After debate and deliberation, from which Professor Seble was often absent from the room, the majority of our class chose to organize as a collective. Overall our class felt it would be too much of a lost opportunity of growth as organizers and activists if we did not organize together on the college campus where we all have a sphere of influence.
The second part of this decision was deciding what we wanted to do at Goucher. Our initial brainstorms included ideas regarding environmental sustainability, accessibility for people with disabilities, Facilities Management Services, and Bon Appetit workers issues. All of these fit under the umbrella of another idea one of our classmates came up with, and that is the issue of how Goucher spends its money. We identified this issue to be the nexus of all further questions regarding the extent to which we commit to environmental sustainability, our workers, or accessibility. This question of Goucher’s resources and spending, we also felt, was an interesting one in the midst of our physically (but also maybe emotionally) massive and obstructive construction projects.
Once we agreed to this topic, more and more questions arose. Who makes the decisions? Why don’t students stay at Goucher? What even is Goucher’s identity as a school? What does our budget look like? And why don’t we know the answers to these questions? If we didn’t know the answers to these questions, did other Goucher students?
These led to more questions about the Undaunted campaign’s intention for the future of our campus, and our collective stake in this institution’s future. So, we banded together to answer questions about Goucher’s identity, which seemed to be in contention as different student groups have felt slighted or unheard. Our organizing involved research, in which we conducted interviews with several administrators and one board member to learn about Goucher’s Capital and Operating Budget, about Board meetings, and about our retention rate. We created the student survey that circulated around campus, yielding the incredible number of 255 responses, a 17.2% response rate. Our objectives as a group were to gauge student experience, educate the student body on Goucher’s budget, and to catalyze community-wide dialogue. The survey was a way of collecting data from Goucher’s student population about their expectations of Goucher versus their reality and locating sources of these discrepancies, and about student perceptions of Goucher’s identity as a school and how our spending as an institution aligns with this vision.
Our community talk-back was Wednesday, May 9th during Common Hour in the Welsh Piano Room, a public space accessible by all members of the Goucher Community (see Open Letter on pg. 14). Additionally, we took the information we gathered from our student body and provided it to the Board of Trustees by handing out leaflets to them during their May meeting.
Our hope is that the information passed on from the student body to the Board inspires questions and topics of discussion for Board members, and injects our student voices into the conversations of the most crucial decision making body of Goucher College. We know that we could not tackle this issue alone within just a semester, but we joined the student body in hopes that we might inform our peers and empower them to further advocate for their interests.
RACHEL LUCE ON BEHALF OF PEACE STUDIES 220
Featured Image: Goucher Identity Survey Results. Credit: Peace Studies 220