Students from an American Studies seminar, Digital America, stood outside Boatwright Memorial library this afternoon and protested the dangerous levels of E. coli in the Westhampton Lake.

The entire class, which consists a total of seven students, displayed several signs that read, “I spy E. coli,” “For your students sake clean up the lake” and “Dirty lake what’s at stake?” Protesters were also handing out small, neon-orange pieces of paper to students who were walking by that read #URecoli and #cleanURlake.

“They’re trying to see if [#URecoli] can raise awareness,” said Meghan Rosatelli, adjunct professor and director of Digital America. “They’ve also created a tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook account for the cause.”

Rosatelli said this protest was a viral campaign experiment for her class. “They are testing the effects of online protesting and … wanted to choose an issue that was close to campus.”

“It’s a good topic to use just from the standpoint that it’s something that not everybody is aware of,” said Damian Hondares, a junior in Digital America. “This gives us ways of how to use the Internet, social networking and cyberactivism to raise awareness and start a conversation, and ultimately see if it can effect the change that we want to see.”

Elizabeth Sherer, a senior who is also enrolled in the seminar, said the protest had served as a symbol rather than a message that was being sent to students passing by on campus. Instead, its goal was to direct everyone to their online campaign.

“We were essentially looking at the tools that the Internet provides to start this campaign and potentially make a change to the conditions of the lake,” Sherer said.

“It’s been a problem for a long time,” Sherer said after mentioning that the university had banned students from swimming in the lake in 1976 because of its bacterial levels. “It’s hazardous … and it would be fun to take better advantage of the lake instead of just looking at it.”

Senior Emily Lagan said she had proposed to focus on the levels of the lake when she had discovered that Delta Gamma and Theta Chi’s joint philanthropic event had been cancelled because of the lake’s conditions.

Other students who are enrolled in Digital America are sophomores Aisling Gorman and Joe Walderman, junior Brendan O’Connor and Nicola Freedman, an exchange student from University of Sydney.

This protest is their fourth “experience” this semester, and they have one more to fulfill as a class. Previous projects include a 90s online chat room, role-playing Edward Snowden and Wikileaks and a digital divide experiment, according to Rosatelli.

Contact reporter Alyssa Gunville at alyssa.gunville@richmond.edu