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Today@Sam Article


Students Put Research To 'Good' Use, Examining Social Justice Issues For Class Assignments

Jan. 30, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Aubrie Walker

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student holding poster for End It movement
Alicia Hammonds (above) and Gregory Daniells (below) utilized their class projects to explore social issues, ultimately making a call for action both in writing and in person by presenting their works at conference. —Photos by Aubrie Walker
Gregory Daniells holding conference presentation paper

Social injustice gets a lot of attention in the news.

Issues such as unfair treatment, the unequal distribution of resources and unequal governmental regulation are not new, but now students are joining the fight against them using newer tactics—largely through education.

Sam Houston State University student Gregory Daniells, a criminal justice major, and Alicia Hammonds, a recent graduate of the communication studies department, are both passionate about moving forward in stopping social injustice.

Daniells has focused his efforts through research addressing the morality of social injustice, while Hammonds has examined online activism via social media.

“You read throughout school that slavery ended, but then you realize that it is still going on today just in a slightly different way,” said Daniells.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world today, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Daniells was first exposed to the realities of human trafficking in high school through an article on an online outlet, where he read about women sex-trafficking in Asia.

“I was just in disbelief,” said Daniells. “I could not believe that stuff like that was still going on.”

While in a philosophy class at SHSU, Daniells revisited the topic when he and was given an open research assignment.

He chose to base his paper on the book, “The Moral Life,” by Louis P. Pojman and Lewis Vaughn, which discusses philosophical theories. He used this text to argue that if today’s society were morally stable, then sex trafficking would not exist.

“There are many moral principles that make slavery immoral,” said Daniells. “I wanted to focus on the principle of self-determination, autonomy, happiness, equality, the second form of the categorical imperative and human potential.”

Daniells’s goal for the paper was to shed some light onto human trafficking by sharing his research at the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Hammonds was also able to share her research when she was selected for The Emerging Leaders Program and along with eight other SHSU students, attended and presented at the 2014 National Collegiate Leadership Conference in Arizona.

The title of her proposal: “Social Justice Through Social Media” was an exploration of how in a hyper-connected society, where there is an instant communication through various devices across the Internet, across the world and where it takes little time for a post on Facebook or YouTube to be viewed by millions—Social media has become a major avenue for people to give a voice to an issue or experience that otherwise would not have been heard.

“I was in New York during the union Square Park protest for Trayvon Martin, and I became curious as to how we could take social media, since it takes up so much of our time, and actually get to a point where policy changes are enacted,” said Hammonds.

students at Leadership Conference in Arizona
Alicia Hammonds took her ideas about using social media to pursue activism to the 2014 National Collegiate Leadership Conference in Arizona. —Submitted photo

“Engaging in conversations about social justice is important, and if social media can be used as a platform to further the conversation in a proactive way, it should be considered.”

While researching and finding the different social media avenues, Hammonds found terms and patterns with the way people handle social media.

For example, “Slacktivism” and “clicktivism” are terms used when someone goes online and clicks the “like” button on Instagram to show support or changes a profile picture on Facebook to match an issue they stand for.

“To an activist in a lot of ways, I feel if you have something that you do not think is being handled appropriately you should not just comment but make suggestions or do things that can help improve the situation,” said Hammonds.

“I believe slacktivism can lead to offline activism; it gets people together and organize in communities through which change occurs.”

Both Daniells and Hammonds’s research deepened their passion for fighting against social injustice. Hammonds wants to eventually pursue a doctorate in computer media communications and do more research in the type of people that actually use new media to form groups and make a change.

“We have an awareness going on but we need more actual change,” said Hammonds. “I would like to see how we could use this information and apply it.

“It is just about changing your profile picture as your favorite childhood cartoon character to say that you are against child abuse but using your connections and becoming educated on other ways you can help ratify the current situation.”

Through all of his research, Daniells agrees that action should be taken against social injustice.

“We cannot allow ourselves to let slavery hold us back as a race,” said Daniells. “We need every human individual to be able to shape the world into a better and brighter world. Do we really want more lost generations of children? Do we really want to stay silent as women are forcibly made into prostitutes? Can we really say that we want the world to continue to stay this way? We have a duty to our future generations to make this world the best it can possibly be, and slavery has no place in such a world.”



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