Shedding light on student activism at the “Woke” Academy

Shedding light on student activism at the “Woke” Academy

Brendan Dugan— IU HESA alumnus John Zilvinskis, now at SUNY Binghamton, Demetri Morgan of Loyola Chicago, and NSSE Analyst Brendan Dugan, presented findings on connections between High-Impact Practices (HIPs) and involvement in student activism at the ASHE conference in Tampa.

Using over 3,200 senior student responses from the 2017 NSSE and a supplemental item set on student activism, we used multilevel linear models to explore the relationship between a host of factors known to influence student activism – demographic characteristics like sexual orientation and race/ethnicity, select institutional characteristics – as well as participation in the six types of HIPs NSSE asks about: service-learning courses, learning communities, internships or the like, study abroad programs, research with faculty, and culminating senior experiences.

We found that being part of  a learning community, doing research with faculty, an d having courses with service-learning components were significantly related to the two factors comprising low-stakes forms of activism, like having discussions with family members, friends, or coworkers about political issues, or attending a public protest, march, or rally for a cause. Additionally, we found all six HIPs to be related to the factor comprising high-stakes forms of activism, such as participating in a sit-in or walk-out, or being part of a group which submits demands to leadership. However, none of the institutional variables were found to be significantly related to the outcomes. Students in STEM disciplines tended to participate in the low-stakes forms of activism less than their peers, whereas students who identified as Black or LGBQ were slightly more likely to engage in activism.

While the subject needs further research, e.g. to establish how institutional contexts shape student activism and account for pre-college activism, this research represents an attempt to establish the relationship between HIPs and student activism, which NASPA and ACPA have recently called upon colleges and universities to view as potential learning opportunities rather than nuisances or disruptions.

Find the slides for the presentation here, and check out more NSSE research on student activism at Minority-Serving Institutions here.