Dwight Hall has ramped up publicity this semester as part of its efforts to better connect Yale students to social justice events on campus.
Through its Call to Action initiative, Dwight Hall sends emails to its nearly 3,000-student panlist to advertise the specific advocacy efforts of its many member groups to promote participation in campus activism. While the system was established at the beginning of the semester, it has picked up steam this week as more member groups have reached out to Dwight Hall to publicize their events.
“We realized during all of the student activism occurring on campus last semester that although Dwight Hall student leaders always know about these advocacy efforts, there wasn’t an actual platform to advertise them and encourage further participation from larger audiences,” Dwight Hall Student Executive Committee co-coordinator Briana Burroughs ’17 said. “When I realized we could expand social justice’s reach by simply endorsing events through an official platform, the only option was to take action.”
Because Dwight Hall is student-run, the program was easy to implement, Burroughs said. To kick-start the initiative, Dwight Hall created a “Call to Action” email template and reached out to member groups known for their advocacy efforts, she added. Groups unaffiliated with Dwight Hall can be sponsored by member groups in order to have their events publicized, Social Justice Network Coordinator Noah Yaffe ’18 said. So far, three calls to action have been sent out for activism projects for Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale and the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project.
Member groups interested in sending out a Call to Action contact Yaffe, who works with the Dwight Hall board to publicize the event, Burroughs said. Call to Action emails include information about the “actionable item” and provide a description of the member group behind it, Yaffe said, adding that he hopes the Dwight Hall audience will become more familiar with the initiative’s name as more blasts are sent out.
“This program stems from the need to make it easier for students to get involved in these kinds of activities on campus,” Yaffe said. “Dwight Hall is a group that really tries to encourage students to become leaders in justice and community service efforts, so we think this is really in line with our mission as an organization.”
Call to Action aims not only to empower students who may not be familiar with Dwight Hall to get involved in advocacy, but also to assist member groups by increasing turnout their events.
Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale has sent out two calls so far, one regarding its Monday town hall on campus sexual climate and one about its Chalk-In Against Rape Culture held on Cross Campus shortly before spring break.
Yaffe said while he does not know how many participants were drawn to the chalk-in specifically as a result of the Call to Action, the email likely contributed to the event’s high turnout
“Forming coalitions and supporting other activist groups’ causes are both really important, so it’s great to have something that can connect different groups like the Call to Action does and facilitates allyship,” USAY co-director Helen Price ’18 said. “We definitely saw that with the chalk-in.”
A call was also sent out Tuesday on behalf of YUPP, under which Yalies for Prison Divestment wrote and circulated an open letter to the University calling for divestment from private prisons.
The group hopes that the letter, which currently has roughly 300 signatures, will ultimately garner closer to 1,000 due to publicity from the email, YUPP co-coordinator Samantha Brown ’17 said. The increase in signatures would enable the group to bring the issue to the Yale College Council and make a stronger case for divestment to the University administration, she added. The initiative works to publicize what Dwight Hall member groups are doing both in terms of concrete events and relevant literature, Brown said.
“I believe that the initiative has been positive so far,” Burroughs said. “We [will] continue to make activists aware of this service in hopes that they will utilize it to their cause’s benefit.”
Burroughs added that any changes to the program will depend on the needs and feedback of social justice groups.
Dwight Hall students contribute over 150,000 hours of direct service and advocacy each year.