From organizing campus-wide protests and demonstrations to advocating for local policy changes, student activism is more prevalent than ever on college campuses. Although many campuses closed over the past year due to the pandemic, college students remain committed to tackling social justice issues. That said, if you’re heading back to campus this year, there are more ways than ever to get involved with causes you care about! Whether you’re interested in advocating for diversity, environmentalism, gender equality, or all of the above, here are seven causes to get involved in on campus this year.
- Black Lives Matter
Since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, students across the nation have boosted their activism efforts to amplify Black voices, diversify campus life and curricula, and call for widespread social change. If you’re ready to make a difference on campus or in your community, consider getting involved with the Black Lives Matter movement, which was founded in 2013 with the mission of combating and countering acts of violence, eradicating white supremacy, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy.
Another way to get involved is by attending a town hall on campus where issues of race and diversity are being discussed. There are also opportunities to organize protests or invite guest speakers to your school to speak about the Black Lives Matter movement, as students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) did. Organizations and events like this can help bring attention to systemic racism, center Black voices, and ensure that students feel that their ideas and concerns are being heard.
- Gender Equality
If issues like the pink tax or gender pay gap are topics you’d love to tackle, then joining an organization that advocates for gender equality may be a great option for you. Check out your school’s Women’s Center to see what opportunities are available, or explore organizations that promote intersectional feminism, which can help raise awareness for issues that are unique to women. While not every college campus has a club dedicated to gender equality, students can often create their own events and movements, like starting a donation box for period products, attending a women’s retreat, and even advocating for gender equality abroad. If you’re curious about how to advocate for gender equality on a deeper level, you can also check out UN Women, which provides a wealth of education and resources for activists.
- Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate
The Asian American community has long been a target of discrimination, and over the past year, there was an increase in reported accounts of anti-Asian hate, particularly in the United States. If you want to bring attention to issues of anti-Asian racism and promote acceptance on campus, getting involved with the Stop AAPI Hate movement can be a great place to start. By joining this movement, students can advocate for and bring awareness to the importance of equity and inclusion for the Asian community, like these students at California State University - Long Beach, or students at Duke University, who advocated for on-campus resources to support students of color.
- LGBTQ+ Rights
Now more than ever, it’s important to create inclusive college environments where students of all backgrounds and identities can feel safe. Whether you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community or want to become a better ally, consider getting involved in a club or organization where you can advocate for LGBTQ+ rights on campus. Organizations like Campus Pride create safe, judgment-free spaces for LGBTQ+ students to share their experiences and explore ways to advocate for greater inclusion on campus. Students at Yeshiva University recently advocated for their school to recognize LGBTQ+ organizations, and other organizations are working to make sure that LGBTQ+ people are liberated in higher education spaces.
If you’re passionate about all things sustainability, joining a campus organization dedicated to environmentalism can be a fun option for you. Whether it’s joining a sustainability club, a stewardship program, or helping set up recycling stations around your campus, there are many ways to get involved and start being kinder to the planet. Students at Northwestern University are improving recycling efforts and advocating for the reuse of athletic equipment, meanwhile, schools like Dickinson University offer a variety of activities for students to learn about conserving fuel emissions and adopting a sustainable lifestyle. Regardless of your background in sustainability, chances are, you can find an organization that aligns with your goals!
- Sexual Assault Awareness
If you’re passionate about issues surrounding campus safety and sexual assault on campus, getting involved with movements like Take Back the Night can be effective — and powerful — ways to address rape culture, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Chapter events and even national virtual events promote the idea that everyone should be able to be on campus without fear of sexual abuse or harrassment. For example, students at North Carolina State University hold events during National Sexual Assault Awareness month to bring attention to the experiences of survivors — and this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how to promote education, awareness, and prevention.
- Mental Health Awareness
With mental health challenges like stress and burnout on the rise, it’s important that college students have access to mental health resources and feel supported on campus. If you’re passionate about mental health or want to get involved in your community, check out your university counseling center, or explore organizations like Crisis Text Line and To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), where you can help support people who are navigating difficult times. Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Active Minds also provide helpful resources for changing the conversation about mental health on your campus.
These are just a few of the many causes you can get involved in on your college campus this year. To learn more, check out your college or university’s student life office, or talk to a professor or mentor who may be able to point you in the right direction to find a cause you’re passionate about. Not only is student advocacy a great way to connect with students with similar interests and promote social justice, but it provides a way for you to stay involved with important issues and create positive change, on campus and beyond.