By Deirdre Fanzo
Lucero Luna Miranda, an undocumented student at Lehman, told her audience that she is not afraid to be herself—not anymore. Miranda was one of four Lehman students who interwove personal narrative with academic writing and research in their presentations at the second annual Activism in Academia symposium, held on Feb. 23 at The CUNY Grad Center. Organized by Lehman English professors Olivia Moy and Dhipinder Walia, the event featured professors from across the country speaking on such panels as “Structural Insurrections in Composition and Rhetoric,” “On-Campus Activism: Protest and Performance,” and “Activist Archives and Histories.”
The highlight of the symposium was the third panel, entitled “Visibility through Scholarship: Undocumented and Underrepresented Voices,” and composed of four Lehman students. Professor Walia stated that this panel “illustrated the way academic interests come from what is not happening in the classroom. Often, the classroom provides the theoretical approaches and sites of study…but students intersect these spaces with their own questions [and hypotheses].” Along with Miranda, Zoe Fanzo, Arlinda Mulosmanaj, and Nicholas Santiago presented their respective research to a room full of academics. (Full disclosure: Zoe is print producer and web designer of the Meridian as well as the author’s sister.) Topics ranged from DACA and DREAMers, LGBT activism on college campuses, to poetry and literature as a form of activism, and digital rhetoric and first-year composition.
Miranda discussed the idea of a model minority, whose members are stereotyped as being quiet, intelligent, and soft-spoken. She said that while that used to be what she aimed to achieve, she is now outspoken in her efforts to challenge an unfair governmental administration and advocate for DREAMers and other undocumented citizens.
Fanzo’s research found similar issues with academic administrations. Her discussion focused on the lack of LGBTQ+ visibility and activism on college campuses. She found that a lack of assistance from conservative college administrations has led to a lack of queer activism. Fanzo expressed hope that Lehman’s current president, José Luis Cruz, will advocate for queer students and LGBTQ+ activism on campus.
Arlinda Mulosmanaj’s research included the translation and analysis of poems by her grandfather, Hysen Mulosmanaj, a prominent Albanian poet and activist. His poetry was important in uniting those forced into exile in communist Albania, highlighting the immense activist power that poetry and literature can contain.
Nicholas Santiago focused on digital rhetoric and first-year composition in his presentation, discussing that the introduction of digitalized platforms into composition classes would provide a familiar format in which students can more easily express their personal narratives, and then develop these narratives into more academic writing.
Hardik Yadav, an English major at Lehman, told the Meridian “The panel was identity-driven,” noting that non-English majors Miranda and Fanzo discussed fighting “irresponsible administrations,” while “Arlinda and Nicholas, both English Honors Program students, found writing to be their weapon.” He added, “It fascinates me to no end how quickly their transformation into leaders happens behind the mic.”