Home » What's New » From K-pop to the school-to-prison pipeline: Launch Pad program to offer rare glimpse into undergraduate research

From K-pop to the school-to-prison pipeline: Launch Pad program to offer rare glimpse into undergraduate research

Moffitt Library will be hosting the inaugural Launch Pad event Wednesday. Launch Pad provides a rare look at the undergraduate research process. (Photo by Alejandro Serrano for the University Library)

Moffitt Library is hosting the inaugural Launch Pad event Wednesday. Launch Pad offers a look at the undergraduate research process. (Photo by Alejandro Serrano for the University Library)

Shelby Mack was scared.

She and a friend, both high schoolers in Southern California, had been heading to a fast-food joint — ditching class, admittedly — when a school security guard stopped them and took them to the principal’s office.

Mack remembers bursting into tears, not knowing what punishment would await.

One thing led to another. What started as a visit with the principal and a phone call to her mother (plus a court date and a fine) ended with Mack going to the Police Department and participating in a juvenile delinquency program known as Divergent, she said.

“We didn’t even make it to McDonald’s,” Mack quipped.

The experience — one of many from Mack’s life that underscores the disparity in discipline between black girls and white girls — helped influence the topic she would research as a Haas Scholar.

The UC Berkeley senior, majoring in American studies with a concentration in black education, is studying black female enrichment programs such as Oakland-based African American Female Excellence and how these programs can be used to replace and dismantle zero-tolerance policies — policies that critics say play a role in the school-to-prison pipeline.

Shelby Mack, a senior majoring in American studies with concentration in black education, will talk Wednesday about the process behind her research into black female enrichment programs. (Photo by Jami Smith for the University Library)

Shelby Mack, majoring in American studies, will talk Wednesday about the process behind her research into black female enrichment programs. (Photo by Jami Smith for the University Library)

On Wednesday, Mack will be one of two undergraduates discussing the research process with fellow students as part of of the inaugural Launch Pad event at Moffitt Library.

Launch Pad’s undergraduate talks on the research process open “a creative space for discussion and growth,” explained Ashley Bacchi, events coordinator for the UC Berkeley Library and creator of the series. “Rather than focusing on results of students’ research, the talks provide insight into the research process itself inviting participation from students from inside and outside of the discipline.

“The fourth floor Central Commons in the Moffitt Library offers a unique space for an event series that highlights the spirit of collaboration, innovation, and process learning that is embodied in this new addition to the Library system.”

For her research, Yena Lee, a senior at UC Berkeley who is majoring in media studies and minoring in journalism, also is focusing on a pervasive problem — albeit an entirely different one.

“The sexism in K-pop is very prevalent,” said Lee, a fellow with the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, or SURF. Along with misogyny, homophobia and other problematic themes are common in lyrics and other aspects of so-called star text, which encompasses not only artists’ work, but also their publicity and promotional materials.

The troubling lyrics have caused a rift within fan communities, causing tension that has played out across Twitter in the form of hashtags and, in some cases, cyberbullying.

On one side are the diehards, whose unwavering loyalty is consistent with the established norms of being a K-pop fan. And on the other side are the fans who are challenging the status quo by demanding that their favorite artists address their problematic lyrics. (#WeWantBTSFeedback and other hashtags were created for that purpose.)

“(Most) artists are not doing anything, basically,” Lee said. “They don’t want any fans to be excluded, so they just keep quiet.”

Through in-depth interviews and data analysis — and a trip to Korea, funded by the SURF Fellowship program — Lee is taking a look at the people who, by holding their idols to account, are redefining what it means to be a K-pop fan.

Yena Lee, who is majoring in media studies and minoring in journalism, will be a presenter at Launchpad on the UC Berkeley campus on Sept. 13. Launch Pad is a program for undergraduate students to discuss the research process among their peers. (Courtesy of Yena Lee)

Yena Lee, majoring in media studies and minoring in journalism, is looking at tensions within K-pop fan communities and how those tensions play out across Twitter. (Courtesy of Yena Lee)

Both of Wednesday’s talks explore topics within the social sciences, but future Launch Pad events will focus on a variety of disciplines. October’s event will focus on science and engineering (formula-style racing, to be exact), and the talk in November will delve into the arts and humanities.

The subject areas are far-reaching, but the goal remains the same: to foster collaboration and innovation among students and to support the research process.

“I think it’s a really great effort by (the UC Berkeley Library) to bring everybody together,” Lee said.

Wednesday’s Launch Pad event takes place at 12:10 p.m. on the fourth floor of Moffitt Library. Each student’s talk will last about 10 minutes, and a Q&A session will follow.

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