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Saturday, May 8, 2021

OPINION: Strong Western heritage of activism should be continued

A renaissance of student activism is sweeping this nation, with its own permutation on our own campus. The destinies of important social issues have fallen squarely into the laps of college-age Americans, and it’s up to us to see them through.

Because if not us, who else?

The radicalism of the ‘60s seems to be relit today, only presenting itself in a new way. Our brand of social activism makes use of all we have at our disposal, technology that can connect people and disseminate information faster than any flyer can and hashtags that mobilize entire groups. And we’re getting results.

Despite the time gone by and different issues, old tactics still work. In November of 2014, following the Michael Brown grand jury ruling, Seattle students protested with a “hands up, don’t shoot” walkout. The following December, students in Massachusetts staged a protest concerning the same issue by laying in the street and staging a “die-in.”

In recent years, students bulked up Occupy Wall Street, pulled the Obama campaign to victory, sparked the Black Lives Matter movement and across the nation have fought for issues  they can no longer see sit idle. It may be easy for older generations to dismiss the work done, but hasn’t this always been the case? History repeats itself, it seems.

Student activism is strong at Western, and even at the most basal level, activism can be performed here. One issue that Western fails abysmally at, however, is turning out for Associated Students elections, with a staggeringly-low 8.2 percent last year. Here is an excellent opportunity to have your voice echoed through the higher echelons of this university, and you don’t even have to link arms to do it.

Campus climate of late has been particularly tense and, regardless of your opinion, you have the power to make change with the upcoming spring election. Elections are held via online ballot, so voting cannot be easier. There simply is no excuse for the 8.2 figure. A democratic campus is one that works together to remedy issues, and takes advantage of every opportunity.

The roots of student protest are deeply set here on own very own campus. During the 1969-1970 academic year a total of 14 campus protests occurred, with issues ranging from anti-hitchhiking laws to the Vietnam War.

The lesson to be learned here is this: do not lose momentum. With such a rich history of activism behind us, the stage is set for a new era of work to be done. Our desire to be active agents of our own destinies should not be squandered, and Western students should continue this proud tradition of activism on into the future.

We could do well to learn from our counterculture protest elders. Practice the value of non-violence, utilize our numbers to sway public opinion. But more than anything, simply be there.

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