Students should use their power to protest and elicit change

By Aaron Clark

Have people forgotten what free speech means?

During the first week of Spring Semester, a small group of 15 to 20 people shuffled out in front of the library, holding signs saying “Black lives matter.” The phrase started out as a hashtag that blew up social media after the shooting of Michael Brown, which is what this meek group of activists were peacefully protesting. The demonstration was completely shocking. It was not alarming because of what the protestors were doing, but because of the lack of support they had. The latest events in Ferguson have inspired thousands of people across the nation to participate in protests, ranging in severity and method of approach. Protestors even included athletes in the NBA and the NFL. If there are people all over the country who are willing to participate in demonstrations against the horrors of police crime and the injustices in our legal system, then why are there so few on our campus?

According to United Nations Youth, one-fifth of the world’s population is people between the ages of 15 and 25. During these ages, psychologists say that a process called sociopolitical development occurs. Roderick J. Watts studied this phenomenon extensively and, along with Constance Flanagan, determined that sociopolitical development is the psychological process that occurs when different factors that support political and social action are developed, including comprehension, skills, worldviews and emotions.

Watts and Flanagan believed the entire point of sociopolitical development is to enable youth to act against the social injustices they observe. More specifically, “to impact young people’s social analysis, worldview and sense of agency and to provide them opportunity structures and support towards their societal involvement behavior.” If youth constitute a sizeable portion of the world’s population, and their psychological processes favor activism and defiance, then the younger generations have the potential to create serious changes within society.

College campuses have been a hub for protests and movements since their introduction to society. This is probably because of the community they provide. College campuses bring together thousands of young people who are in the midst of sociopolitical development. Within the student population, classes introduce students who are interested in similar subjects, creating an easy way for the student body to meet people who care about the same issues they do. The presence of social media and smartphones allows for instantaneous spread of news, opinions and events that are occurring both on campus and in the United States.

All of these internal and external factors create the perfect environment for the student body to participate and act against social injustices, like the shooting in Ferguson. Throughout the course of history, there have been some protests on college campuses that have made a massive impact. Look at the Kent State University protest in 1970. The protest began on the Kent State University campus, where 2,000 students protested the wars in Cambodia and Vietnam. After the Ohio National Guard killed four students, colleges and universities across the nation expressed outrage and disbelief at the violent acts.

The results were monumental. Nearly five million college students joined a national student strike, 900 colleges and universities across the nation were forced to close due to the strikes, and 175,000 faculty members joined the demonstrations, according to Within two months after the Kent State Shootings, U.S. troops began to withdraw from Cambodia. The events at Kent State had an impact on a serious political decision, all because students decided to be active in society and express their wants for our government and people.

The entire U.S. was founded on the idea of activism and rebellion against the status quo. It is written into the framework of our country that we, as a people, have the right to speak about political and social issues without repercussion. So why not do it?

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