A Look Back on Student Activism

When I decided to write an article on student activism, one of the first things I searched was “college students.” I just typed that into Google and then hit “News.” To my surprise, very few results were about college students doing good things like raising awareness about important issues. Instead, the key words that jumped out to me were “scandal,” “rape,” and “racism.” Looking back on the past year, it became very clear to me that news coverage of college students has been dominated by scandals (like Brock Turner) and issues of racism on campus.

As someone who tends to be fairly politically active, it made me feel a little hopeless. I know college students aren’t as apathetic as others think, but if the news media doesn’t cover student activism, then what difference does it make?

Well, historically, it has made a difference. College students have consistently been at the forefront of progressive movements. In the 1960s, it was four black students from North Carolina A&T that sat down at a “whites only” lunch counter, and started the Woolworth’s Sit In that inspired nationwide nonviolent protests. It was students that joined Martin Luther King Jr. and a group of civil rights leaders on the campus of Atlanta University to stage nonviolent protests throughout the city.

During the late 60s, and 70s, college campuses around the country held protests against the Vietnam War. Columbia and Harvard are some of the most well-known. And these weren’t without consequence. These protests ended with police coming in with weapons and students getting injured.

Many students stood against apartheid in South Africa in the 70s and 80s, most famously, again, at Columbia. Students there were particularly upset with the school’s investments in South Africa, and wanted to put pressure on the school to change its policy.

And recently, college students have been fighting financial greed and corruption (Occupy Wall Street), racism, and police shootings, just to name a few.

My point is this: it’s not hopeless. And the more active we are, the more attention the media pays. Everywhere you look, you hear people say how this is one of the most important elections. But most change comes from the bottom up, so regardless of who the next president is, we keep going.

Images: 1, 2, 3