PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Four University of Wisconsin-Platteville students recently conducted a #Stereotypes photo campaign as their final class project to reveal the variety of stereotypes that students, faculty and staff at the university have faced in their lives.
The students are enrolled in Introduction to Gay Studies, taught by Brad E. Baranowski, M.S.Ed., LPC, lecturer for the departments of women’s and gender studies and psychology at UW-Platteville. For the students’ final project, they had to conduct a needs assessment and provide service or activism within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community; provide that service or activism by donating volunteer hours; and then write a paper about the experience. With Baranowski’s approval, the students modified their project to provide service or activism to all students.
Students who conducted the #Stereotypes project included Mohammad Tazin, a junior mechanical engineering major from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Sydney Holbach, a sophomore forensic investigation major from Edgar, Wis.; Kyrstn Wanless, a sophomore criminal justice major from Edgar, Wis.; and Scout Harrison, a sophomore biology major from Brooklyn, Wis. Tazin led the project.
For two hours on five days in late April, the students stood both inside and outside the Markee Pioneer Student Center as well as Ottensman Hall and asked passersby if they would like to write a way in which they had been stereotyped on a whiteboard and then have their picture taken while holding it.
More than 100 people participated, with participants signing waivers for having their photos taken for use on social media. The photos have been posted on a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HashtagStereotypes, and may also be displayed on campus.
“Coming from a different cultural background, I always wondered if others had encountered stereotypes in their daily life or if it was just me,” said Tazin. “So I thought: why not ask others to share their story? During the project, we got overwhelming responses from the participants. It’s a different approach to show others that everybody is affected by the stereotypes we make every day without even having the intention. Maybe by seeing all the photos, we can be more respectful to each other by not making stereotypes. It doesn’t hurt to ask before making an assumption.”
“The main objective of this campaign is to raise awareness about stereotypes that are happening around us, which may help start a conversation about different stereotypes expressed on the UW-Platteville campus,” said Holbach. “Hopefully, through this project, the UW-Platteville campus can become a safer and healthier environment for everyone.”
Some of the comments written on the whiteboards included: “I may be deaf, but that doesn’t mean I am not a good listener;” “Baller shorts + no make up + ponytail and headband does NOT equal Lesbian;” “Middle Eastern ≠ Terrorist;” “Just because I am white, doesn’t mean that I am privileged;” “Just because I’m brown doesn’t mean that I have bombs;” “Masculinity doesn't define sexual orientation;” and “I am not a frat boy, I am a fraternity gentleman.”
“Stereotypes of all kinds exist. Our campus is no different. Many people are stereotyped – even I have been stereotyped and discriminated against,” said Baranowski. “It’s important to teach our learning community about this and see just how wide and personal of an impact this has, especially as it relates to gender politics and sexual identities.”
“This project definitely opened up our eyes to the effect certain stereotypes have on people,” said Holbach. “As people were coming forward to write their stereotypes, they told stories about when those stereotypes were used against them. Hopefully, this project will help humanize stereotypes – in other words, put a face to the stereotype – so that people see that face when they are about to use that stereotype again. It was so rewarding to see people who were unafraid to show who they were and talk about all the stereotypes they have encountered.”
“I cannot wait to see the finished project,” said Baranowski. “I believe it will have a powerful impact on our community. I am so proud of these students – their enthusiasm, dedication and countless hours they put into the project. I am proud of all of my students for learning about and making our campus a better place for LGBTQ individuals.”
“I am so proud of Sydney for taking her learning to the next level, allowing students and staff to publicly address the stereotypes they deal with, and educating the entire campus about false judgments,” said April Feiden, lecturer of English at UW-Platteville, who had Holbach in a freshman composition class in fall 2013.
In the class, Feiden chooses the theme stereotypes in order to provide a foundation on which all students would improve their critical reading, thinking and writing skills. “Primarily through student-led, teacher-guided discussions, students not only learn to identify common stereotypes, but also the effects stereotyping have on others and themselves,” said Feiden. “They realize that if they frequently rely on stereotypes to make decisions, they miss out on a lot of opportunities and are likely to internalize stereotypes others place on them.”
Feiden is interested in speaking to classes and/or partnering with other instructors to bring her lessons about stereotypes into more classrooms. For more information, contact Feiden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Financial contributors to the #Stereotypes project include UW-Platteville’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion, International Programs, Patricia A. Doyle Center for Gender and Sexuality, Division of Student Affairs and Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.
As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The #Stereotypes project aligns with three of the priorities, including providing an outstanding education, fostering a community of achievement and respect and enriching the tri-state region.
Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, email@example.com