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Communicating with Decision Makers on Campus

mit One of the biggest frustrations about being a student activist is that you're unschooled in the ladder of power. Going to talk about an issue with a favorite professor or the university president may be easy or symbolic, but it's not necessarily helpful. Ask yourself: who makes decisions? How can they be contacted? And how can you influence them positively? While your first task is to figure out who has power in a particular issue, moving from that to constructively working with them is sometimes difficult.

Talking to Men In Ties narrates one individual's experience trying to find information and change policies at Earlham College. Although this is a case study, and therefore unique, his frustrations and successes yield some instructive lessons. This was originally found at Campusactivism.org (http://www.campusactivism.org/displayresource-253.htm).

Another resource for reaching decision-makers is "How Decisions are Made In School" from the SoundOut website (http://www.soundout.org/howdecisions.html). While this is aimed specifically at high school students, it's a great way to start thinking about the way authority is divided within the educational environment. The site also includes a helpful list of tips for student-authority interactions, which can facilitate communication and jumpstart dialogue (http://www.soundout.org/studentadultpartnerships.html).

Don't forget that a school's trustees also have great influence on a school's activities; beyond their direct powers to approve or disapprove of school leadership, their significant financial contributions grant them some power over school policy. This article from the Boston Globe (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/08/13/students_switching_activism_to_boardroom/) details ways student activists are working with trustees to change their schools.

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