Student teams across the U.S. have localized what it means to counter hate and extremism in each of their communities, then activated, measured campaigns for effectiveness.
On Monday the Anti-Defamation League announced three student teams from U.S. universities who will advance to the final competition in Washington, D.C., on June 12 for the pilot run of the ADL: Innovate Against Hate program.
Chosen as “best of the best” from 19 participating teams representing 16 states, the finalist teams hail from Boise State University, University of Maryland (College Park), and University of Nebraska (Omaha), and each have focused on slightly different interpretations for how to best counter hate and extremism at the local level.
The ADL: Innovate Against Hate program challenges student teams to design and implement social or digital initiatives with the goal of countering hate and extremism while promoting values of fairness, equity and inclusion.
Boise State University
Students from Boise State University created S.A.M.E. (Students Against Misogynistic Establishments) to combat violence against women by targeting misogyny in all of its forms — “bringing us all to the S.A.M.E. page.” Through anti-hate organizations’ research, the team identified misogynistic and male supremacist groups recognized as hate groups, such as the Proud Boys, who promote misogynistic ideologies and Western Chauvinism. The team targeted both at-risk men who might be recruited to such organizations, and those in the Boise community and beyond— via in-person events, both on and off-campus — who might perpetuate and normalize violent misogyny. Of particular interest to the team was the amount of online backlash they received, and thus, engagement with their target audience came easier than expected. “The simple presence of our online campaign … was enough to initiate conversations with those that had either not been exposed to our type of campaign before or those that would work against it,” they submitted in their final report. In the end, they exceeded their original goals, reaching over 200 people in person and nearly 45,000 through social media.
University of Maryland (College Park)
From across the world, they come to this place;
We wish to include them, to make a safe space;
Immigrants and internationals give this campus its fame;
We’re here to support them as Maryland Frame.
This is the slogan created by University of Maryland’s students who created Maryland Frame, to mobilize and engage the silent majority on campus — those who are supportive of immigrant and international students but are not sure how to help — to “reframe” attitudes about immigration on their campus. Despite the fact the school hosts 8,000 foreign students from 137 countries and five different continents, the team’s research revealed that many members of the immigrant student community still face challenges that leave them feeling marginalized and excluded. To better connect these groups to the non-immigrant population and help them adjust to their new lives on campus, the team created a mock-up mobile application, which they will continue to develop over the coming months, with community event information, resources and other helpful tips. The team reached just under 25,000 people on their Facebook page and also deemed their in-person events as successful. To better document and understand the struggles of immigrant and international students on campus, they had a breakthrough moment reaching persons whom they previously had trouble engaging, including immigrants who had been reluctant to share their stories, at the campus’s well-attended “Maryland Day,” where they were able to film 80 interviews.
University of Nebraska (Omaha)
In 2016, Nebraska resettled the most refugees per capita of any U.S. state, making it a fertile breeding ground for Far Right extremist groups competing for the uncommitted majority’s views on refugees. Students from the University of Nebraska at Omaha designed a campaign, Room at Our Table, around the themes of hospitality, welcoming and community engagement to increase awareness of refugee issues and empower communities to form their own opinions about refugees — either digitally through shared photos, videos and stories, or through in-person events. This team took a methodical approach toward their research that informed their campaign approach. They utilized NodeXL network data to determine the most effective keywords to use in their materials, then enlisted participants in the university’s “CAB Lab” to measure attitudinal changes using eye tracking technologies and “facial expression analysis” to gauge the emotional impact of their campaign materials. They partnered with Lutheran Family Services, Sustained Dialogue and their local ADL regional representative, Mary-Beth Muskin, to host a two-hour on-campus dialogue about welcoming refugees. The event significantly boosted their social media reach and engagement, showing that, much like how recruitment works in extremist campaigns, it is necessary to have an in-person event to amplify any social media initiative. The team was also pleased to report that most of their digital engagement came from personal referrals, where users reached out to colleagues, relatives and friends. This further strengthened their “power of contact” ideology that drove many of their tactics — that it takes a personal connection with a refugee family to both dispel stereotypes and drive societal change.
Each of these teams will be competing for top honors and $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000 cash prizes next Tuesday in Washington, with the winning order announced on-site. Real-time social media updates, including a livestream at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKCrqQosQ6Q, followed by a press release, will detail the final standing and other details from the event, co-hosted by New America and EdVenture Partners, the educational organization who manages the program.