“Get Woke” campus campaign



Sara McAssey

Courtesy of “Get Woke Nova” Facebook Page

The slang word “woke” can be defined in a variety of different ways. Sometimes it is regarded as the past tense of the word wake, and in other instances it is identified differently: being aware, and knowing what is occurring in the community. 

Senior communication majors, Serene AlHalabi, Kat Gowland, Sarah O’Conner and Brynn Bannister are taking a unique approach to their civic engagement senior project with the help of this slang word. Note: in their case, “woke” will be used in the context of getting people to wake up and be aware of issues concerning social justice in the community. Their goal? For people to be more aware of racial discrimination against many students on our campus.

“The purpose of this campaign is to facilitate conversation around injustices that many students face on our own campus,” AlHalabi said. “We want to highlight the fact that many people face discrimination due to their race, and that is a reality for many Villanova students. A lot of students think that racism and discrimination no longer exist on our campus because of the ‘Villanova-nice’ persona we’ve adopted. However, it does happen on a daily basis and people just don’t want to talk about it. Well, our goal is to talk about it. We want students to feel comfortable engaging in dialogue without it turning into a political argument. Because it’s not about politics at all, it’s about humanity. We want to embody the value of community and create a campus that truly accepts and supports one other. Therefore, we hope to inform more students (who are not used to having these conversations) about the importance of being an ally. It is critical for people who are not as aware about these issues to see the realities many students face on campus, and learn more about how to be an ally to their peers. Throughout this campaign, we hope to open the eyes of our peers and help them get woke.”

 “Gowland came up with the slogan ‘Stay Woke Nova’, because ‘stay woke’ is a common phrase that other social justice campaigns use on a national scale,” AlHalabi said. “However, we realized that saying “stay woke” implies that people on our campus are already aware of these issues, which simply isn’t true. There are definitely some people who are, but we want to appeal to those who aren’t ‘woke’ so that they can get woke. We think that this change is very important so people can understand the true purpose of our campaign.” 

Upon browsing through the respective Facebook and Instagram accounts for this campaign, one can find several “Humans of New York” style interviews and photos of students on campus explaining personal struggles they have faced because of their race, and how to initiate discourse on issues that may be regarded as “uncomfortable.” 

“More and more people are messaging us on Facebook and emailing us praising our work and asking to be involved,” AlHalabi said. “We have received more submissions from minority students who want to share their stories. We have also placed piles of our campaign stickers all over campus that people have been picking up really quickly. Considering we only started the social media aspect of our campaign a week ago, this is a great sign! However, we also realized that the people who are paying attention to us right now are mostly those who have been involved with social justice issues on campus in the past. That being said, so far we have only been able to get the attention of people who are already woke rather than the people we want to ‘get woke.’ We still have time to make that happen, so I’m hoping the increased attention will help us achieve our ultimate goal.” 

The group urges students to be aware of the campaign’s “Wish Tree” installations on Main and South campuses that will feature prompts that members of the Villanova Community are welcome to respond to and attach to the trees in the next three weeks.