RIZELLE ROSALES; Mast Magazine Editor; email@example.com
The Collective is an independent grassroots community of students that respond to social inequality through developing leadership and organizing action in the PLU community.
What began as a response to the resistance against systemic racism at University of Michigan (Mizzou) led to the formation of The Collective at Pacific Lutheran University in 2015. A group of several students organized a silent protest to stand in solidarity with Mizzou, along with universities across the country. They organized a list of demands and expectations for PLU regarding the treatment and representation of marginalized identities on campus.
This prompted students to establish a group — a collective — of students, aiming to engage with administration and to advocate for underrepresented voices in PLU’s practices and policies. Their list of demands was published in the Spring 2016 issue of the Matrix, including mandatory faculty implicit bias training, addressing PLU’s location on Nisqually and Steilacoom land and reform to core curriculum. In Fall 2017, they organized meetings with the Board of Regents to work on fulfilling those demands.
The Collective isn’t the only campus group to demand more from their university. College activists around the country have demanded improvements in inclusivity, accessibility, representation and awareness from their administrators. Because of the national climate, students have been compelled to educate, mobilize and protest the injustices they witness on their campuses.
Last November, nearly a year after the formation of the group, The Collective organized a march across campus in protest of the election of Donald Trump. The tension surrounding the march compelled the group to declare anonymity for the safety of its members and close off their Facebook page to the public. Since it goes against the structure of lateral leadership for an individual to speak on behalf of the whole, group members have been reluctant to speak out to student media since the march.
Since the dust has settled and the tensions have subsided to some degree on campus, students are willing to share the experiences they’ve had with the Collective in the past five months. Senior Theo Hofrenning, one of the co-founders of the group, has seen the group grow through its highs and lows. “We’re permeating the PLU consciousness, and at the same time we’re still trying to figure out our role on campus and our identity as a group,” Hofrenning said.
“Everybody here is fighting for something, and that’s something I want to be a part of.” – First-year Cordell Pickens.
The Collective has meetings every week, focusing on dialogue surrounding social issues and principles of effective activism. There are small group activities as well, which utilize the diverse skill sets and interests of the students who attend.
The group has also seen new members in the past few months. First-year Cordell Pickens joined the group at the beginning of spring semester. The transition to college can be rocky, and Pickens described how reaffirming it was to find a community in a diverse group of students. “Everybody here is fighting for something, and that’s something I want to be a part of,” said Pickens.
“The collective has given me a great place to be around like-minded individuals, and have uncomfortable conversations. I learn and grow from being here,” said first-year Mark Hernandez.
Though approaching individual members to get information was sometimes intimidating, there were more responses when members were given the opportunity to submit testimonials anonymously.
“The Collective has given me the opportunity to truly grow and learn as a social activist,” said an anonymous submission. “I love the sense of community and love that I feel as soon as I walk in the door.”
In bubbly penmanship, one submission read, “It is a place where I can feel completely comfortable expressing my frustrations with society.”
“The Collective has made my PLU experience worthwhile. As a graduating senior I look forward to keeping connections with the meaningful relationships made and the mission of the organization. The Collective celebrates my ethnic identity as a Black woman,” was submitted in purple ink.
“We’re often seen as this ‘subversive’ group… but that’s not who we are,” Hofrenning explained. “As I see it, we’re building up this foundation of activists who will then, in the next [few] years, be able to do effective actions as parts of larger campaigns to change the culture and institutions on this campus.