Graduate Student, Professor Partner to Teach Others About Student Activism in New Book

August 15, 2017

David Tolliver, left, and Michael Miller
David Tolliver, left, and Michael Miller

University of Arkansas graduate student David Tolliver began working on a book with Dean Michael Miller before he even enrolled in the interdisciplinary public policy program. IGI Global recently published the book on student activism, two years into Tolliver's doctoral coursework.

Miller is dean of the College of Education and Health Professions and a professor of higher education. Tolliver's area of specialty in the public policy program is higher education policy. The two had gotten to know each other a year before when Tolliver visited Fayetteville several times during the application and enrollment process.

The book titled Student Activism as a Vehicle for Change on College Campuses is part of an IGI Global series called "Advances in Higher Education and Professional Development." It includes an introduction to campus activism in the 21st century, historical context, case studies, information on shifting perspectives, policy implications and predictions. It also offers a glossary of terms and related readings for further study.

Tolliver said the book can give higher education administrators a thorough understanding of student activism and, in particular, help them realize that it can have a negative connotation because of how it's framed. But, when student needs are addressed in a timely and effective manner, the students will feel they are involved in policy development and the situation may not escalate to the point they feel ignored and that they must make demands of the institution. A key is not to remain passive, he said.

"Also, I think if they read the case studies to see how activism has affected students, faculty and administrators, they will see how powerful activism can be and how to get ahead of it," Tolliver said. "The book will help them understand possible mistakes and how to change the dialog between students and administrators. They can create a campus culture and climate that is more inclusive. It will become more student-centered because you communicate with them."

The book discusses how student activism can be viewed as a part of a student's development while in school. It also talks about the differences that today's technology has on student activism. Students can use social media to join groups and express their needs and opinions, he explained.

"Technology is a huge part of the modernization of activism," Tolliver said. "It allows use of different avenues to be an activist. If students feel their needs are ignored, they believe they have to engage in activism and create demands; if things don't change, students feel like they have to do something to gain attention."

 Faculty who don't feel they can take part in activities outside the classroom can practice activism in the classroom by teaching and encouraging discussion about such issues as social justice, he said.

"A movement doesn't need everyone in the street," Tolliver said. "It needs people who can assist from different areas. Students don't wake up one day and decide to become activists. Over time, conflicts motivate them."

Tolliver formerly taught in Title 1 elementary and middle schools, as well as in an alternative secondary school for K-12 students with behavioral issues. He was chairman of a Louisiana political party executive committee and board member of election supervisors during his tenure in secondary education.

He also has long been interested in student activism as well as community activism because of his family's involvement in various community issues. For his dissertation, he plans to study the high school to college matriculation by African-American men from single-parent families.

He will draw upon his own experiences as a basis. He was taken care of primarily by his mother and grandmother while growing up, and he views Miller as both a professional and personal mentor. Mentors such as Miller can make a difference in whether someone perseveres, he said.

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