A new “Remove the Label” campaign at Northern Michigan University is designed to raise awareness about the damaging impact of stereotypes. It encourages the campus community to assess people based on their individual traits rather than categorize them according to negative assumptions, misinformation or unfair generalizations. Campaign posters were put in place last week. A “Remove the Label” event encouraging students to rip off post-it notes with handwritten stereotypes from oversized posters will begin Wednesday morning at Jamrich Hall.
“I hope this campaign will get students talking and help everyone realize that we have much more in common,” said Shirley Brozzo, associate director of the Multicultural Education and Resources Center. “I think it’s a marvelous approach to this issue. I was concerned at first because, when you read all of the labels, they hurt like crazy. But it’s an effective way to get the point across. We’ve already received a number of comments on the posters from students who noticed them and stopped to see what they were about. I can’t wait to see how they will react on Wednesday.”
Brozzo had seen a diversity campaign at another university that featured posters of minority students ripping up photos of their stereotypes. She approached NMU Marketing and Communications about doing something similar here. Art Director Mike Forester said the staff decided on a more interactive approach.
“Most of the campaigns that address these issues are passive; they don’t really encourage participation,” Forester said. “We kicked around other concepts, but the students involved thought this idea was cool because it’s more empowering. Students who’ve been impacted by labels can remove them as a way of saying, ‘This isn’t me.’ Others might remove labels as a way to show support for their fellow students. We have no idea how this will play out at Jamrich. It might take a while to remove all the labels or it might happen very quickly. It will be interesting to see how students interact with the display.”
A video with footage from Wednesday’s event, along with other campaign information, will be posted at nmu.edu/removethelabel.
On a related note, a student survey to assess the campus climate regarding diversity and inclusion is underway. Students and staff, including Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Jessica Cruz and Administrative Assistant Marlina Martínez, will be at Jamrich from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday. They will also hand out fliers, chat with students and provide snacks.