Every Day They’re Tumblin’

Tumblr University at SUNY New Paltz aims to inform students of important current problems and take action to help resolve them, founders said.
Tumblr University at SUNY New Paltz aims to inform students of important current problems and take action to help resolve them, founders said.

Tumblr addicts now have something productive to do with their time – other than posting photos of cute animals and pizza – with the help of the new SUNY New Paltz club called Tumblr University.

The club, founded by first-year students Kellie Gainey and Grace Kobryn, aims to use the blogging website as a platform to foster discussions about current issues and find solutions.

Spurring from a joke about Tumblr posts saying,“I wish I could go to Tumblr University,” Kobryn pitched the idea to Gainey and the pair decided to actually make it possible. In late September, they set up a domain on the site, where they post a discussion topic roughly once a week and members can make submissions of how they feel about the subject.

“We’ll post some questions to get people’s thoughts flowing and then they just post what they believe about it, if they support it, if they don’t,” Gainey said. “At the end of each topic, Grace and I review the posts and conclude it, basically including the census agreement of what everyone believes is right. Then from that standpoint we figure out what we can do.”

The first topic the club plans to tackle is the controversy of hydrofracking, followed by Hasbrouck dining. However, the topics will usually be selected at meetings when attendees toss anonymous suggestions into a hat and one is randomly chosen. If they begin to run out of subjects or they become repetitive and dated, they will collect “a fresh batch”or simply turn on the anonymous option on the Tumblr so people can submit ideas.

“We’re open to a lot of ideas from the members, what they want to do, what matters to them, how we can help them reach their goals,” Gainey said.“It’s basically a collaborative thing.”

Gainey said they created the club to increase students’ awareness on pressing issues and to inspire action.

“The main thing is that our generation, for the most part…we’re all about our phones, Facebook, not really paying attention to the world around us, just what’s going on in our lives,” Gainey said. “It’s kind of important to open up people’s eyes to important things going on because if you don’t really pay attention to what’s going on then you can’t really have a say in what’s going to happen. You can’t help shape the world into a place that you believe is good.”

The club’s Tumblr page has about 50 followers, but they are working to increase this number by promoting as much as possible. They have mentioned the club to their friends, posted about it on their own personal blogs, hung signs and drew on sidewalks in chalk. They have also reached out to those from New Paltz who they see on Tumblr by leaving them the link to the university blog. However, Gainey said they want non-Tumblr users as well, since there are only so many students on Tumblr and they need a lot of people for some things they hope to accomplish.

The club held their first meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18 and while only four people actually attended, the founders said they received 10 e-mails from interested students who could not make it to the meeting. There they went over the club’s message, goals, what they would do and what exactly it was all about. They also held E-board elections, reviewed the website and got to know each other.

“It’s a fun place to hang out once a month and discuss serious issues while still just hanging out with friends,” said first-year club member Ian O’Donnell.

As they are mainly Internet-based, the club will meet monthly or bimonthly, unless they need to organize an event or are running out of discussion subjects. Gainey feels that being on the Internet is an advantage because discussions are open six days a week, 24 hours a day and members can submit thoughts whenever they have them without worrying about being available for a meeting.

Gainey hopes Tumblr University will inform members and let them know they can make a difference.

“We’re trying to open people’s minds to different opinions, educate people about what’s going on in the world and show people that they can change things,” Gainey said. “If they have an opinion on something and want to change something, they do have the power to do so.”