Student activism on campus must grow
College is a time to be ambitious, discover passions and take adventures. Beyond classes, it allows us to find out what matters to us, and pursue it. Maybe itâs defending a cause, or working for an idea. Unfortunately, when it comes to that kind of activism, students are sometimes at a loss.
In Cairo, Egypt, youth were a major part of the revolution at the end of January that resulted in then-President Hosni Mubarak stepping down.
âCollege students are at the center of the uprising,â said Mohamad Elmasry, assistant professor of mass communication at Qatar University, to The Houstonian at the time of the revolution. âThis has been termed the âYouthâs Revoltâ because the overwhelming majority of protesters and organizers are young people.â
The revolution followed a similar one in Tunisia and sparked protests all across the Middle East and North Africa. The so-called Arab Spring has been a political and social tsunami, and a shining example of what college students can do when they commit to a cause.
In Egypt now, more than four months since Mubarak stepped down, students are still taking action. While I study abroad at the American University in Cairo, I see students â many of whom participated in the revolution â discussing the next steps for Egypt.
These discussions include organizing political parties, protesting the interim rule of the military and even searching for solutions to seemingly acute causes such as environmental policy and social programs for the poor. The Egyptian youth are civically engaged, socially aware and possess the will to change the status quo.
Why arenât we more visibly concerned with and vocally supportive of the causes we believe in.
We donât have a dictator to overthrow, but in the United States, and Los Angeles specifically, there is a large wealth gap, with many people living on the streets. Thereâs pollution, people going hungry, a struggling education system and, as we saw in Bell, political corruption.
Los Angeles also possesses countless ways to get involved and work to solve these problems. On campus alone, there are opportunities available for every student to accommodate wide-ranging interests.
So hereâs an idea: Letâs get active this year. That doesnât mean everyone has to paint their faces Braveheart-style and loudly shout slogans against the system, but why not support a cause?
That does not necessarily mean joining one of the collegeâs political clubs, though USC College Republicans and USC College Democrats both offer ways to get involved. If politics and local elections are your interest, dive right in and go to work. These groups can find you campaigns to volunteer for or internships with politicians.
Activism shouldnât be limited to just party platforms. Talk to those clipboard-carrying people wandering campus during the day. They might have an organization that appeals to you. You could find a way to benefit the group with your talents while participating in something that interests you.
At any given day, there can be representatives for environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, or food drives trying to find new avenues of support to help feed the poor. The representatives want to talk and are typically more than happy to field any questions.
A visit to the USC Volunteer Center will give you varying dozens of options. These opportunities range from simple activity days of feeding the poor to helping plant a neighborhood garden to the Jumpstart Corps tutoring service designed to help ensure children enter school prepared for learning the course material. Itâs a great way to find out what is available around campus and how to join in.
Maybe youâre studying overseas and witnessing community activism. Or maybe youâre on campus at USC and wondering what to do. Well, now is the time to take action. The revolutions of the Arab Spring show that students can make a difference. Activism doesnât have to be limited to political radicals or that one-week overseas alternative break. Students can work to help others any time of the year.
It doesnât matter if youâre one person volunteering your time at a local school or you are one of dozens of students working to clean up the streets of trash (although the more the merrier, and more effective you can be). Our opportunities are endless, and our ability to change the world is limitless.
Students are more powerful than we like to think. Our peers overseas are risking it all for what they believe in. Letâs use that as inspiration to make impactful changes to matters that concern us.
Nicholas Slayton is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism.