Posted by Jean-Ann Kubler
On April 11, "EN105: Under the Influence," will begin two weeks of campus-wide campaigning to improve awareness of healthy living, green initiatives, binge drinking and gender relations in Africa.
The class, an expository writing seminar, spent the semester studying the use of persuasive language to influence audiences. As a final project, students are working in small groups to design persuasive campaigns for subjects they feel passionately about.
The campaigns explore issues specific to the college, as well as larger national and international issues.
Many of the groups are focusing on green initiatives, such as water conservation and increased recycling on campus, and convincing the administration to install motion-censored outdoor lights to decrease energy use.
Siwei Song '14, an international student from China, is campaigning with her group to raise money for oppressed women in Africa.
To encourage donations, the group is offering hand-folded origami figures in exchange for contributions to its campaign. The group is also seeking the assistance of Benefaction and the International Student Union.
Two student athletes in the class are campaigning to increase student use of the gym in an effort to promote healthier student lifestyles.
They plan to host a campus-wide dodgeball game to encourage students to be active and social, according to Aaron Beck '14, a member of the group.
First-year Anthony Giacim's group is campaigning to decrease binge drinking on campus.
"We know we're not going to be able to end underage drinking, but if we can get people to have one or two fewer drinks in a night, then we'll consider ourselves successful," Giacim said.
The persuasive aspects of the campaign will take the form of posters, Facebook groups and documentary viewings, according to the class. Many of the groups plan to set up tables and small exhibitions in the atrium of the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall.
The success of the campaigns will be part of the students' final grades, according to Professor Thad Niles.
"Let's think about your actions on the ground," Niles said to his class during a brainstorming session, "The things people are going to see. The things that will make your campaigns successful and active rather than just ideas."
Each group will develop an individual, quantitative form to evaluate the success of its campaign. Song's group will judge its success by how many donations they receive, but many groups' evaluation methods have not yet been decided.
"All of these issues are so huge — it can be paralyzing to think about trying to take action. I want the class to see that even if it's just at the campus level, two people can get 30 or 40 people to take action, and that's success," Niles said.