Student Activism Sees Resurgence on Campuses Around the Country
Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on December 17, 2015 at 4:24 pm
Whoever said the power of the people doesn’t affect change hasn’t met this crop of college students. Fueled by outrage over everything from college debt to racism, millions of students across the country have been turning to social media to organize and then demonstrate against injustices. Call it a rise in student activism, the movements across college campuses are having an impact. From the resignation of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to the Million Student March, activism on college campuses is growing and doesn’t look like it will be abating any time soon.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the larger student movements over the last few months and what they have been able to achieve.
The Problem: Racism
The issue of racism on college campuses was thrust into the spotlight last month when protests at the University of Missouri over the handling of racism on the campus resulted in the resignation of the president and chancellor. About 30 black members of the Missouri Tigers football team tweeted their decision not to play until Wolfe stepped down. A day later more members of the team, both black and white, as well as head coach Gary Pinkel backed the players. By Monday, students were organizing, prompting Wolfe to resign from the school. African Americans at the University of Missouri had long complained about the toothless response from school administration to racism on the majority-white campus.
Unlike protests of decades ago, the speed in which things played out can be attributed largely to the Internet and social media. Thanks to the proliferation of the Internet and social media, students can organize in seconds on websites like Facebook and Twitter.
Since then, student activism has resulted in Princeton University considering removing a mural of Woodrow Wilson, starting conversations about Wilson’s legacy and boosting culture competency training for the staff after a close to two-day student sit-in last month, while Brown University is pledging $100 million over the next decade to tackle diversity and racism issues.
The Problem: Student Loan Debt, Lack of High-Paying Jobs After Graduation
The cost of a college education continues to climb at a time when college students are graduating without the skills necessary to land even an entry-level job. The result: countless students are saddled with thousands of dollars in student loan debt and with little recourse to handle it. Currently, student loan debt stands at about $1.3 trillion dollars with the average person owing $29,000, according to Experian. At the same time, the cost of a college degree increased about 3.7 percent last year, faster than the rate of inflation. Not to mention lots of college graduates are having a hard time finding work or are underemployed if they do land a job.
Students took the streets in what was dubbed the Million Student March to show their outrage over the cost of a college education and the debt students have to take on to get one. Demanding tuition-free public college, cancelation of all student debt and a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers, students came out in droves on college campuses around the country early last month.
While the movement by students on more than 100 universities in the U.S. didn’t result in any immediate changes, it does push the issue to the forefront and forces presidential hopefuls to look at this serious issue. During the election season, politicians from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton have talked about a free college education for all.
The Problem: Campus Violence and Sexual Assaults
Violence on college campuses isn’t anything new, but in recent years, the number of sexual assaults and domestic violence has been on an upswing. According to the Association of American Universities survey of 150,000 students from 27 colleges and universities, 27.2% of female college seniors reported they had experienced unwanted sexual conduct while they were incapacitated. What’s more, the Violent Victimization of College Students says people aged 18 to 24 report roughly 526,000 violent crimes each year with 128,000 of the incidents involving the use of a weapon or serious injury. Further exacerbating the problem, rape and domestic violence on college and universities are notoriously under-reported, underscoring the need to address the issue.
Not to take this lying down, students worked hard this year to draw attention to the issue and hopefully exact some change. Take Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University graduate who this past spring walked around campus carrying a mattress to draw attention to college rape after she said she was raped in her dorm room during her sophomore year and her attacker was exonerated. Sulkowicz carried her mattress at graduation as well to bring attention to her cause. Other protests have broken out on campuses throughout the year.