University of Houston Students Use Social Media to Make Their Voice Heard

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A group of graduate students at the University of Houston used social media to address their poor working conditions, and it worked.


The basic issue facing the students of the school’s creative writing program was a paltry stipend. Graduate students in the program had not received a raise in 20 years. Further compounding the problem, students were not allowed, by policy, to seek employment outside of their role as graduate assistants.


Skipping ahead to the end of the story: the university’s president recently announced that $1 million dollars would be redirected to the creative writing department. These funds will be used to begin to address the low pay that graduate assistants receive.


So, what part did social media play in this change? What steps did students take to make their voices heard?


Online Petition Circulated– In the fall, tuition at the school was raised by $100; however, the tuition waiver graduate students receive was not raised to cover that increase.  In response, a petition was circulated in protest on Facebook. The original goal of 50 signatures was surpassed and 300 individuals took a stand online with the U of H students.


Profile Pictures get a New Look– In February, graduate students were asked to change their profile pictures to support the cause. The new picture depicted a cougar dressed as an indentured servant. The caption for the picture read, “UH English TAs, Making $11,000 since 1993”. During the school’s prime recruiting period, scores of students and alumni changed their picture and made a statement.


Facebook Page Created, Takes Off– Students created a Facebook page which served as a source of information about the cause. A picture of a peaceful sit-in outside the university president’s office in April was posted on the page. It was shared 76 times.


Twitter Used to Reach out to the Media– Students tweeted information about the sit-in to numerous media outlets. The event was covered by The Houston Chronicle, The Houston Press, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.


Last but not least, Memes– During the second and third day of the sit-in, several appropriate memes were created to take the message to new heights. One notable attention getter featured singer Billy Ray Cyrus.


As mentioned above, the social media efforts of these University of Houston students had the intended effect. The university is taking steps to address their concerns. How has your business used social media to make its voice heard in a unique way? Share a comment below.



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