Political Organizing on an Online Campus
Traditional campuses have been hotbeds of political activism for years. But what do you do if you have strong political beliefs and a desire to organize your fellow students—but no campus to do it on?
Never fear. The web is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for political activism, and it’s played an important role in the last few Presidential elections. If you want to organize and inspire your online college campus, you’ll have to do it using the Internet. Here are a few ways you can get started.
Political organizing can take on many forms such as organizing a rally in support of lowering tuition rates. The internet now allows for better opportunities to get your message out to your fellow students.
Reaching Out: Looking For Signs of Interest
Does someone in your class post a link to a politically relevant site in his or her email signature? Do certain people’s bulletin board posts sometimes veer toward expressing political views that are relevant to yours? This is easier if you’re earning an online political science degree than one in an unrelated subject, but there are sometimes signs that some of your fellow students may be open to your political ideas. As you get to know one another, these will be more obvious.
It’s inadvisable to co-opt the class discussion board in support of your cause or send out unsolicited political messages to students. But you can reach out by posting a link to your blog or a website that outlines your views in your email and forum discussion signatures; students may follow the links, become interested in your views, and write back about it. If you find signs that certain students may share your views, send them a casual off-topic email with a link to a site or news article sharing your views and see if they continue the discussion.
You can get the conversation going by starting a blog expressing your political views. As other students become interested, you can give it the perspective of an online student. Discuss your school’s position on the issues; announce meet-ups and events; and ask your fellow students to take action by starting an email campaign or signing a petition. Encourage your fellow students to participate in the blog’s discussions.
You can also start an online mailing list containing politically relevant news and articles or messages you write yourself. To avoid conflict with your school, it may be best to avoid using the school’s discussion board forum to do this; check with your school’s policies if you’re not sure. Some schools have off-topic discussion boards that allow students to communicate, and you may be able to use those to bring students together.
You can also make sure word gets out by detailing the information in your online profiles at social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. First, let your peers know you’re starting a Facebook group for students attending the school. Connect with as many people as possible in your classes—you can do this more easily if you don’t bring up your political views first, as some may not agree with you. Then, start a second Facebook group for students of that college who are interested in your causes. Let people know about it via the general student group.
Meeting in Person
Ron Paul supporters earned notice in the latest election for organizing support by canvassing extensively at online media outlets and social networking platforms.
Political organization on an online campus has to use online tools to get off the ground. One tool that can be useful is the Yahoo! Meetup program, which allows anyone to start a group for people interested in any subject. Start a Meetup group for students attending your college and sharing your political views. This may not be successful if you’re in a rural area, but for those in large metro areas it shouldn’t be difficult to find at least a handful of fellow students who share your views. To publicize the group, send a single email message to your students advertising it and then leave it alone—not everyone in your classes will share your views. Post it on the school’s off-topic bulletin board if there is one. Include links to the meetup page in your email and discussion forum signatures.
Political organizing on online campuses requires a little more than just posting a notice for a rally on the school notice board. You’ll have to gauge student interest through observation and discrete conversations—many online students are adult and nontraditional, and may not be as willing to leap into political causes as a young and passionate traditional student would be. Advertise your leanings carefully through inclusion of relevant links in your signature and emails to people you have reason to believe would be interested. Avoid spamming or taking over the class discussion boards for your own agenda. Follow these tips, and you should be able to connect with your peers over causes that matter.
Civilities: Applying Network Models to Political Organizing
Politics4All: The Strength of Political Organizing Online
Online Journalism Review: Net Changes Game of Political Advocacy on Right And Left
USAToday: Online, Off And Running: A New Campaign Front
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