OPINION | Student activists should reprioritize

Published April 3, 2012

Imagine if students did not take to the streets on college campuses protesting the Vietnam War, race relations, sexual morals, women’s rights or the role of authority in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

What achievements would be nonexistent today?

Participation in community service by college students is at an all-time high, yet voting and other forms of political participation have fallen to their lowest levels since 1971, when American citizens 18 and over received the right to vote.

The typical Butler University  student is not lazy but rather extremely over-programmed.

The time and energy being devoted by Butler students is amazing, but I think more of us should become politically active in order to bring societal change.

There are three actions that I would consider categories of change that students are involved in on campus: dedication to service projects, philanthropic engagement and political activism.

But political activism is the one category that is very rare for our campus, whereas philanthropy and service projects are widely popular.

You especially see the philanthropy events almost every day you walk into Starbucks or out onto the patio.

But with Peace Week—sponsored by the peace studies minors and majors in collaboration with other clubs and groups—beginning on April 16, the turnout for events won’t nearly draw the same as a philanthropy or service project. Why?

One reason might have to deal with the direct engagement students have during philanthropy events and service projects.

A student spending an afternoon at Wheeler Mission directly helps out the poor and needy of the Indianapolis community.

Compare this to a student who attempts to organize a petition and plan a rally to get more government support addressing the poor and needy in Indianapolis.

This student is not interacting with the people his or her action is trying to help.

Another reason might be the results coming from a service project or the achievement of hitting a monetary target at a philanthropy event.

These results are tangible, understandable and rewarded.

A student will not see a successful result by just spending a week devoted to a cause through political action.

The investment of time and energy to bring about a political achievement takes years.

A final reason a student does not want to get involved with a political activity is that the political arena is perceived as corrupt, polarized and difficult to overcome.

Promoting and having a rally on campus to end the war in Afghanistan or for a certain political candidate will have an opposing side.

And our generation seems opposed to confrontation.

I suppose that no matter what the Butler student does, whether it be a service project, a philanthropic endeavor or a political action, we can take the words of Robert F. Kennedy to heart: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lots of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”

I like to think that, as students, we are not ignoring the issues facing our country, our generation or our world, but we are tackling the problems each in different ways.

I just wish they were more politically oriented.


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