Collections > UNC Chapel Hill Undergraduate Honors Theses Collection > "I Cried in the Middle of the Bottom of Lenoir, and my Friends Were There": A discussion of exploitation, friendship, and culture at UNC
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In this paper, I use friendship and social networks as a lens to discuss the effects of neoliberalization of the university on UNC undergraduates. I conducted interviews, participatory mapping, and a new visual research method I call “friend mapping” to learn about five UNC students’ experiences with friendship, classwork, conflicting narratives, and the increasing neoliberalization of their university. Through this research, I find that it is helpful to imagine undergraduates not only as consumers of education, but also as workers and products at their universities. Understanding their position in this way, we can talk about the ways university students are exploited and the strategies they employ to survive the extractive processes of their schools. We also see that Universities seek to incorporate these strategies into a sanitized narrative which will attract new students each year, but that by sharing and listening to their own stories, students can take back control of this narrative and find points of solidarity with others workers. Finally, I will discuss the shortcomings of academic research in discussions of friendship and intimacy, and provide suggestions of how the academy might overcome these failures and gain a clearer and more complete picture of the lives of university students and people in general.