Professionals are teaching students to protest more effectively

Care2 gives student activists training and other resources for powerful campus protests

As more students participate in campus protests, one organization is helping them get their message out more effectively and to the right people, Courtney Kueppers reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education

Care2 is an online for-profit platform that allows users to create petitions for causes important to them. Not all of its users are college students, but students are increasingly using the tool when organizing protests.

The process starts when students create petitions on the site and can invite others to sign them. Care2 campaign writer Kelsey Bourgeois searches through petitions on the site and reaches out to people who she believes could benefit from the organization's assistance. She then coaches participants to "optimize" their demands, which may include editing petitions, connecting student activists with Care2's PR firm, Unbendable Media, or providing deliverables such as printouts and posters.

"We can post it on Facebook, we can geo-target it so people in their area see it," Bourgeois says. "We can send it out to reporters, we work with Unbendable Media, and the big thing we can offer is we have several professional organizers who handle deliveries and protests and rallies. We provide signage, we print the petition for them."

Among other cases, Bourgeois is working with student activists at Brigham Young University (BYU) who are protesting how the school handles sexual assault cases. The activism holds special meaning to Bourgeois, who says she is a sexual assault survivor. She is compiling a list of people who have threatened to stop donating to BYU or have reconsidered sending their children to demonstrate to the university that its honor code has financial repercussions. The Care2 petition regarding BYU's honor code currently has more than 113,000 signatures. 

By the numbers: What student protesters actually want

Skidmore College freshman Valerie Janovic turned to Care2 to create a petition highlighting the school's lack of mental health resources on campus. Care2 coached Valerie to make her petition more successful, which resulted in more than 50,000 signatures in support. Now Skidmore has pledged to hire another psychologist for the counseling center, contact a 24-hour hotline, and look into more ways that counseling services can help students who suffer from panic attacks and breakdowns.

"With student organizers, they don't have money to spend on a protest," she says. "But they do have the passion, and we can use that and help them assert change" (Kueppers, Chronicle of Higher Education, 5/12). 


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