“A lot of people showed up for our first meeting, but I’m having a hard time keeping them involved.”
Be sure to welcome new members enthusiastically and make them feel appreciated and part of the group. Activism tends to become cliquish, which. Which is understandable, since because we’re used to having to be on the defensive with “new” people. Let people share in decision making; people will work harder if they can help decide what to do. Also, choose realistic goals. People get discouraged if they don’t see results. Achieving a goal doesn’t have to mean ending the sanctions on Iraq. It could mean holding a good demo, getting media coverage, making a great leaflet, holding a teach-in, writing a guest column. Find a balance between hard work and fun. Get to know activists outside of meetings and demos. Build relationships with people: you need friends to maintain any semblance of sanity in Texas, and also to win campaigns.
“How can I handle hostile administrators?”
Don’t give them ammunition. Don’t lose your cool. If you think they are “waiting it out,” be sure there are people to take over when you graduate.
Change takes time. Prior activists may have had a few nasty clashes with administrators and left a bad taste in their mouth. Or, they may just be jerks. Be courteous even if you think it is obnoxious or “sell out.” Send thank you notes after meetings. Keep good contacts with the administrators that are on your side. Build rapport with faculty and staff. If everyone is on your side EXCEPT the Tower, then the Tower has to crumble to your demands.
“Does it really matter how I dress when tabling or doing media?”
Unfortunately, yes. Think of it this way: People already have barriers to understanding what you are saying. The dominant culture, media, etc. probably isn’t on your “side.” You have to break down barriers to reach people, and for them to take you seriously. Dress adds another barrier. A collared shirt from a thrift store can go a long way. Most importantly, it DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE SELLING OUT. Wearing a nice shirt for a few hours doesn’t mean you are abandoning your identity. Social movements peak when the “mainstream” begins to identify and listen.
Think of your audience. If you are tabling on a campus or at a punk show, don’t worry about your dress.
“I feel like I’m doing all the work. What’s the best way to get people to help?”
Ask them! Many people want to help, but won’t volunteer. Begin by giving people small tasks with a clear beginning and end (ex: updating the local media list, making a flier). Start with something simple, to create a sense of ownership and empowerment.
“There’s no group that works on what I believe. What can I do?”
Start a group. If you are against that, you can still make an impact as one person. Stickering, wheat pasting, fliering: these things reach people. You never know who will notice it and start thinking.
“Are campus regulations different than normal free speech laws?”
Yes. Universities are not democracies. Check out "The Rights of Students" and "The Right to Protest," both published by the ACLU. To order, contact: