AAUW Student Activists Are Challenging the Status Quo

November 20, 2015

Student activism is at the heart of AAUW’s mission. AAUW was founded in 1881 by 17 college women graduates who dared to question the status quo. Much like student activists on college campuses today, our founding members courageously questioned existing conditions and overthrew the belief that higher education was off limits to women.

Today, more than 80 AAUW student organizations at campuses across the country continue the fight for equality. Here are just five AAUW student organizations that are taking a stand on campuses and demanding change across a range of gender equity issues. Get ready to feel inspired!

Students Help Establish Campus Sexual Assault Crisis Center

Purdue students with cards showing campus sexual assault statistics

Students at Purdue University successfully pushed for a rape crisis center on campus.

According to a recent report, 22 percent of female undergraduates at Purdue University said they had been sexually assaulted since beginning college.

In response to the epidemic, the AAUW student organization at Purdue University, along with fellow student organizations, pushed for the university to establish a rape crisis center on campus. Their effort was a success: Purdue’s Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education (CARE) will open its doors in fall 2016.

But the Purdue student organization’s work isn’t done. The group is now working to ensure that students’ and survivors’ voices are fully incorporated into the new center’s planning. Recently, members of the school’s AAUW student organization collaborated with partner groups to organize an open forum on the new center. The forum, which featured the dean of students, the school’s Title IX coordinator, and the two assistant directors of the new CARE center, helped raise awareness about the center’s opening and gave students an opportunity to discuss the realities of sexual violence on campus. More than 40 students, staff, and faculty attended the forum, and AAUW student org members live-tweeted the conversation to help reach students who couldn’t attend.

Students Help Empower Women in STEM

The USF students with an AAUW banner

University of South Florida students organized an event to encourage students, particularly women, to pursue STEM fields.

There are more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs than ever, but women remain severely underrepresented. However, the AAUW student organization at the University of South Florida (USF) is helping to change that.

The group partnered with the College of Engineering and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to organize an event aimed at inspiring students, particularly minority women, to pursue competitive STEM careers. Speakers at the event included Jayita Das and Lakecia Gunter, both USF alums, who shared their experiences as an engineer and a chief technology officer, respectively, at Intel.

Colleen Naughton, president of the AAUW student organization at USF, had the honor of presenting Gunter with the organization’s first Distinguished Alumnus Award. The AAUW student organization was proud to help students realize that, as Naughton said, “you can pursue your dream career after USF no matter your gender, race, or economic background.”

Students Honor Victims of Sexual Assault

Two women students with a butterfly

Oklahoma State University students partnered with a local domestic violence center to honor victims and survivors, and released butterflies as a symbol of hope.

One in 5 women is a target of sexual assault while in college, and college-aged women generally experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence.

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the AAUW student organization at Oklahoma State University partnered with a local domestic violence center to honor victims and survivors. The president of the organization, Courtney West, said that the event, at which students released butterflies as a symbol of hope, helped raise awareness in an especially moving way around the critical issue of domestic violence.

Two Student Groups Spark Campus Dialogue on Feminism

Woman holding a sign with #INeedFeminismBecause

Penn State students hosted an #INeedFeminismBecause campaign to dismantle common biases around feminism.

Due to stereotypes and misconceptions, feminism can get a bad rap, but members of the AAUW student orgs at Pennsylvania State University and Texas A&M University are helping change that.

Both schools’ student organizations held recent campaigns, #INeedFeminismBecause (Penn State) and Who Needs Feminism? (Texas A&M), to draw attention to the fight for gender equity. For the campaigns, students tabled and took to social media to share personal messages about the meaning of feminism.

Jordan Glover, president of Penn State’s AAUW student org, says the event created a “safe space” for student discussion about a topic that “isn’t spoken about enough.” At Texas A&M, students took photos in front of their Who Needs Feminism? banner, which caught the attention of people walking by and sparked dialogue about relevant feminist issues on campus, including intersectionality and the Black Girls Rock campaign.

At Texas A&M, students took photos in front of their Who Needs Feminism? banner.

At Texas A&M, students took photos in front of their Who Needs Feminism? banner.

Both schools’ causes helped highlight important equity issues as well as share the benefits of AAUW student membership. “The reality is that there are many different, complex reasons for why we need feminism, including the benefits for men,” said Kimberly Fayard, director of public relations for the AAUW student org at Texas A&M. “We especially wanted to bring this awareness to young college students, who are the ones who will make an impact on society.” Cheers to that!

Want to join the movement for change? Start an AAUW student organization on your campus, and e-mail coll-univ@aauw.org with any questions. If you already have a student organization changing your campus climate, make sure to share your own activism work in the comments section below!

Paige Robnett By:   |   November 20, 2015

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