There is a new online center for activism at Wesleyan: Wesward.org. Originally created by Leonid Liu ’14 and Lisa Sy ’13, with help from Haley Baron ’12 and the University Organizing Center (UOC) Coordinating Committee, the site officially launched last Friday.
Liu said that he was initially attracted to the University’s reputation for social engagement, but that after arriving, he felt that there was room for improvement in the University’s activism scene.
“I was surprised after the Student Activities Fair how difficult it was for people to become engaged if they weren’t involved already in circles of activism,” Liu said. “It seemed to be a very logical step for there to be some sort of hub online for activism and for all of the other cool stuff that happens on campus that I feel we should be showing off more than we already are.”
Liu said that his interest in creating an online resource came to fruition with the help of Sy over winter break, when they met in California to work on the project. Sy explained that the website is intended to make activist efforts more accessible and to supplement the UOC as a meeting place on campus.
“There’s just a lack of centralization for all these different resources,” she said. “The UOC is the physical place where student groups can come together and collaborate, but it sometimes is difficult just because it’s physical and people don’t have time to organize meetings and everything. Everyone uses the Internet and everyone uses the computer.”
“It’s not broad-based like student life or music,” Liu said. “It has a cause-oriented focus, meant to be for activism stuff, anti-oppression stuff, for people who are looking to do things on a social scale. It also is meant to be a little bit different in terms of the kinds of content we want on the site. It shouldn’t just be events.”
Liu described his vision of the site as a more comprehensive and creative depiction of activism on campus, incorporating background information on issues, the history of different groups, and academic papers. Future plans for the site include an events calendar and a Craigslist-like section where students can solicit help for projects.
Liu added that they welcome artistic expression and want to utilize different forms of media on the site.
“I think that there are a lot of ways to communicate activism and regular blog-style stuff is limiting if you only take advantage of text,” Liu said.
He also noted that, while posting privileges for other campus websites are limited to staff members, Wesward is intended to be more of a group effort and welcomes anyone interested in activism.
“We are very, very happy to give any student group access who feels like their mission does good in some social way,” Liu said. “We’re happy for them to email them and ask for an account, and we want anyone who feels strongly enough that they want to express themselves to have an account. We’re also happy to take submissions. This is not at all meant to be exclusive and the content of what is produced is totally up to who wants to write.”
Sy also emphasized the focus on collaboration in terms of content.
“It’s more democratic in a way,” she said. “It gives everyone an equal chance to get their voice out.”