Tag Archives: studentactivism

Archiving Social Media about Duke Activism

At the University Archives, we work hard to dispel the stereotype that we are merely reactive documenters of Duke’s history, that we wait to receive evidence of activity reflected in the records of the offices, organizations, and bodies that donate or transfer materials to us. We pursue student organizations‘ materials and meet regularly with representatives from both transitory and permanent bodies active in the Duke community. Since 2010, we have selectively crawled websites related to Duke.

The recent activism on campus has given us the opportunity to try new methods of documentation. Students and protesters disseminated much of the information related to the Allen Building Sit-In staged by Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity (DSWS) and ongoing tenting on the Abele Quad on Twitter, Instagram, and other web platforms. The Chronicle published a lot of coverage in print issues of the paper, but created multimedia presentations online and on Twitter. What follows are some of the methods we used to approach capturing online materials related to student activism, brief summaries of how well we did, and some early thoughts on what our responsibilities are with respect to access and re-use of this material.

We used three tools to primarily collect web materials, each with its own strengths. The Rubenstein Library subscribes to the Internet Archive’s Archive-It web crawler, which allows us to execute captures of web pages. I wrote about our broader efforts around Archive-It and Duke History last year on this blog. Archive-It is best suited for more static websites, and is less effective at capturing dynamic conversations. For the recent student activism, Archive-It came in handy when capturing the website of the DSWS, as well as the ongoing, related criticism of campus culture at Duke by the #DukeEnrage collaborative.

Archive-It has some capability for capturing Twitter, but it’s Twitter as viewed on Twitter.com: it’s a flat presentation of a Twitter feed or search. Here is a comparison of a tweet presented by Twitter, and what it looks like in its raw form.

01_tweet_frontend

02_tweet_backend

This lack of flexibility influenced our decision to look elsewhere for capturing Twitter. We settled on two applications: Social Feed Manager and Twitter Archive Google Spreadsheet (TAGS). Both tools, once configured, query the Twitter API, retrieve tweets in their native form, and do some level of processing on them. Social Feed Manager stores tweets and allows the user to export them as a CSV or Excel file for offline storage. TAGS parses tweets into a Google Sheet, which can be downloaded for offline storage. For logistical reasons, we chose to use Social Feed Manager in the rare occasion of attempting to capture the tweets of an entire account—in this case, the @dsws2016 account.

@dsws2016, viewed in the Social Feed Manager web application.
@dsws2016, viewed in the Social Feed Manager web application

 

An Excel export from Social Feed Manager of @dsws2016 tweets.
An Excel export from Social Feed Manager of @dsws2016 tweets

We used TAGS to crawl hashtags. Since November, we had been capturing tweets related to #DukeEnrage, #DUBetter, and #DukeYouAreGuilty. Once the Allen Building Sit-in began, we added #DismantleDukePlantation and #DukeOccupation2016. Most of these were relatively low-use hashtags, with one exception: use appears to have coalesced around #DismantleDukePlantation, resulting in around 7000 unique tweets from the week of the sit-in, and another 2000 from the time since.

TAGS summary dashboard
TAGS summary dashboard

 

#DismantleDukePlantation tweets captured by TAGS
#DismantleDukePlantation tweets captured by TAGS

This work is still ongoing. So far, I think of our efforts as a modest success. The web, and especially social media, is ephemeral (although, oddly and wonderfully, aspects of the web we thought would disappear have persisted). That said, these efforts represent only one or two angles into the online conversation. Newer platforms like Yik Yak and Snapchat are either location based or expose content only temporarily. The tools available to capture Instagram are not as developed as those for Twitter. We cannot, nor do we want to, capture everything.

There are also questions of ethics and access. We received (enthusiastic, as it happens) permission from students associated with DSWS to capture their Twitter feed*. It would be impossible to seek permission from each individual Twitter user who tweeted using #DismantleDukePlantation. Although everything we targeted is still currently available through Twitter, the users who created it likely did not expect it to be re-contextualized—even if they fully understood the terms of service they clicked through when they signed up for the service. Twitter would frown upon us releasing material we captured through the API on the open web. For the time being, we tentatively plan on making the Twitter content available in our reading room, though we would need to consider anonymizing the data first.

This is by far not the only arm of our effort in documenting recent and ongoing student activism on campus. We fully expect for administrative records from relevant University offices to be transferred to the University Archives. We have been in touch with classes interested in further documenting the student voices involved. Selectively capturing Twitter and crawling static web pages allows us to capture student activists and their activities in the moment

*[edit] A former University Archives student worker, responsible for outreach in DSWS, granted UA explicit permission to capture the group’s Twitter and Facebook content.

Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.

ASDU’s Task Force on Black-White Relations

For the past few months, I have been processing the records of the Associated Students of Duke University, Duke’s student government organization from 1967 to 1993. One of the most interesting aspects of working on this collection has been the opportunity to learn about student life in the 1970s and 1980s. In the past year, the Duke community has grappled with questions of diversity and inclusion on campus, issues that were also explored by past Duke students.

In March 1967, the Men’s Student Government Association and Woman’s Student Government Association were replaced by the Associated Students of Duke University, which represented the entire student body. ASDU was led by an elected President, an appointed Executive Committee, and a Legislature composed of representatives from campus living groups. ASDU had a number of responsibilities, including managing student organizations and creating initiatives designed to improve student life at Duke. They also sent representatives to important university committees such as the Academic Council and the Residence Life Council. ASDU also formed a number of internal committees and task forces to study aspects of student life at Duke including housing, dining, and academic issues.

In the fall of 1981, ASDU created the Task Force on Black-White Relations to study the racial climate among undergraduate students at Duke. ASDU was concerned that while desegregation had removed many of the visible signs of racism, inequality still existed on campus. The Task Force on Black-White Relations was led by Trinity student Shep Moyle, who would be elected President of ASDU in 1982 (and is now President of the Duke Alumni Association’s Board of Directors). The Task Force consisted of seven students, including Mark Jones, the president of the Black Students Association.

Ad for October 28, 1981 Open Forum on Black/White Relations. From the Duke Chronicle, October 27, 1981.
Ad for October 28, 1981 Open Forum on Black/White Relations. From the Duke Chronicle, October 27, 1981.

The committee held a series of public forums in the fall of 1981, which gave students the opportunity to voice their opinions. After the forums, Moyle wrote, “there was an ignorance, an apathy, even a hatred between the races on campus. This is a situation we must rectify. Whites misunderstand the black community’s actions and the blacks misunderstand the white’s [sic] reactions in return. A vicious circle that merely separates the groups even further.” The forums solidified the committee’s impression that actions must be taken to improve race relations on campus.

The Task Force developed a set of recommendations they believed would improve the campus climate. The official committee report of the Task Force on Black-White relations was published in February 1982. The findings of the task force mirrored many diversity concerns that continue to be raised today including enrollment numbers, a lack of faculty of color, and unequal treatment by campus authorities.

In the report, the Task Force wrote that the number of African-American students at Duke was unacceptably low. Their analysis found that over the previous few years, the overall percentage of African-American students at Duke had decreased. The report called for the Duke Admissions department to increase outreach, advertising, and financial aid opportunities for minority applicants. They recommended a 50% increase in the number of minority students for the class of 1986 and a 15% increase for the classes of 1987 and 1988.

The report also indicated that the university needed to increase hiring of minority faculty and staff, stating that eight African-American faculty members out of 350 total faculty was “appalling”. The Task Force suggested that the university launch a nationwide search for talented African-American faculty members and provide incentives that would attract them to Duke.

Additionally, the task force also accused Campus Police of stopping African-American students without just cause because of their race and called for race to be included in the core curriculum and for readings on race relations to be mandatory in freshman classes.

Notes from the Task Force on Black-White Relations. From the ASDU Records.
Notes from the Task Force on Black-White Relations. From the ASDU Records.

University officials had a mixed response to the report, refuting the claims of biased behavior by the admissions and public safety departments. They also claimed that while the report raised a number of important points, many of the proposed solutions would be unrealistic or too difficult to implement. However, the administration promised to utilize the findings of the report in future decisions. Chancellor Kenneth Pye added, “The report shows a recognition of what is a real problem on campus. I think it is an important addition and a valuable step forward.”

It was interesting to compare the findings of the Task Force on Black-White Relations to current discussions on diversity to see what changes have occurred and which issues continue to be raised. Once reprocessing is finished on this collection, researchers will be able to review the Task Force’s documentation themselves—perhaps as a way to bring these past perspectives to bear on our current discussions. (In the interim, a copy of the final report may be found in box 5 of the Office of Minority Affairs Records.)

Post contributed by Elizabeth Hannigan, Isobel Craven Drill Intern for the Duke University Archives and student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science.

“From Sit-Ins to Hashtags” on Display at Perkins Library

Culture Clash is a series of exhibits, created by the Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA), traditionally hosted in the Alcove outside of the CMA Lounge. Culture Clash aims to provide multicultural and social justice education to build and/or strengthen bridges between different communities at Duke and beyond. The exhibit provides members of the Duke community and guests of the CMA the opportunity to explore the intricacies of the human experience with the focus on building sustainable, authentic, and healthy relationships and communities.

This year’s culture clash, which is on display through February 1st, 2016 at Perkins Library’s Campus Club Wall, is entitled “From Sit-Ins to Hashtags”. The exhibit explores the patterns of student social justice work and activism both at Duke and beyond throughout history. The photos depict different trends and styles of activism in the different decades.

Students protest in favor of the Black Faculty Initiative, April 1988.
Students show support for the Black Faculty Initiative, April 1988.

Curating Culture Clash has been a wonderful learning experience. I have a new appreciation for museums and exhibits; until now I never really realized how much thought and effort goes into a project of this nature. From beginning to end, this project has been about learning. The research aspect of the project was fairly intuitive because here at Duke we are always doing research. Finding movements to document and represent wasn’t overly challenging. Even finding an equal representation of photos from each decade was a fairly smooth process due to the help of the University Archives.

The challenge in this project came with deciding on how to visually present all of the photos. Juggling some 70 odd photos and 19 photo frames and 126 square feet of wall space was an experience. For me especially, I struggle with visualizing; I need something concrete to look at. The later part of the curation process involved a lot of cutting paper models and trying to learn how to visualize the small picture within the big picture. However, teamwork makes the dream work here at the Center. As a team, we made all the pieces come together in the end. We are very happy with the final outcome of the project.

We hope that from this exhibit students can understand how student social justice work has transpired in the past, and perhaps find inspiration to be an advocate for a cause that moves them.

We would like to give a special thanks to Margaret Brown, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Coordinator, and Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist, for all of their help throughout the curation process.

Related Resources:

Post contributed by Vanessa Lusa, Class of 2018 and Center for Multicultural Affairs Student FACE.