Preserving Campus Support for DACA Students

post-it note
One of the over 100 notes left in support of LMU’s DACA students

On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would be rescinded. The decision has left many students in our community feeling vulnerable, afraid, and uncertain of their futures and the futures of their friends and families. In an act of solidarity and to give encouragement to our DACA students, the staff of the William H. Hannon Library set up a white-board in the lobby that invited visitors to write notes of support for their friends, classmates, and fellow Lions. Over 100 notes were places on the board with comments ranging from “Dreaming is American” to “Together we will fight this.” Post-its are not made to last forever. They are, by their nature, meant to be easily removable and temporary, but University Archivist Lauren Longwell is working to enshrine these post-its in institutional memory by adding them to the Loyola Marymount University Archives.

The Archives of Loyola Marymount University begin with records of Los Angeles’ first institution of higher learning, St. Vincent’s College, and continue through early Marymount School to present day Loyola Marymount University. More than one thousand linear feet of artifacts, manuscripts, and other media document the history of LMU and its predecessors. These items include documents related to student life, university administration, religious communities on campus, and the formation of the schools and colleges at LMU. Longwell has been working in particular to preserve student voices. “Student groups have a lot of agency in determining campus identity and the current activism on campus may have significant value to future researchers.” The post-its, photographs from the rally, as well as statement made by university administration, help to understand this moment in American history and the campus community’s response to contemporary politics.

Preserving these items presents unique challenges for Longwell. “Post-its are not something you typically see in archives. We’re going to have to do some creative processing.” Typically, archivists avoid keeping anything sticky that might leave a residue on other items in the collection. Staples, paperclips, rubber bands, and other office supplies are often removed as part of the accession process. Longwell plans to put the post-its on acid-free paper, encapsulate them in mylar, and keep them in cold storage to help extend their lifespan. “This will hopefully slow any deterioration that might happen naturally.”

white board with post-it notes
Library staff setting up the post-it board

Longwell is hoping to collect other artifacts to help contextualize the post-its: posters and photographs from the DACA rally, letters of support from the administration and other campus units, or stories of LMU students. “Normally when we receive collections, they are inactive. It could be a project that a department worked on but it’s usually a complete set of documents. In the case of the DACA post-its, we are trying to preserve the campus reaction in real-time.” Longwell recognizes the need to reach out to student groups more actively in order to ensure that student voices are present in University Archives.

If an LMU student organization is interested in preserving its voice/legacy, Lauren is happy to help! “Having an archivist from the beginning would definitely be beneficial to future preservation efforts” she says. Items eligible for inclusion in the University Archives include photographs, email correspondence, event flyers, meeting minutes, rosters, calendars, etc. “The role of the university archives is to document campus history. The more student voices that are in there, the better.”