Art by Sacha Irick
In recent weeks, students around the country have turned small efforts into grand actions that have resulted in transformative standards for the entire nation. Their dissatisfaction with current situations have sparked high-ranking officials all the way to President Barack Obama to enact change, demonstrating the weight students can have. With this going on, it made me look around Pepperdine and see about what students were causing commotion in hopes to be inspired.
Unfortunately, I am not impressed. There is a lack of student activism on our campus that creates a rather dull and complacent campus life.
Student activism can be summed up as student involvement on issues dealing with economic, environmental, political or social change on or off campus that promote institutional change. Historically, campuses have been a place for students to recognize a need for change and act upon it. Famous cases such as the Columbia University protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee against racism in the 1970s are just some historic examples.
Today, students across the United States have sparked national attention to sexual assaults that happen on college campuses and the lack of discipline of the perpetrators. Schools such as Georgetown University, which is not one of the many schools under federal scrutiny for ongoing investigations, have a student campaign to face issues that women and men face in regards to sexual assault. Another example of student-led change occurred at Duke University as students helped shape how the school allocated resources. How does Pepperdine compare?
Pepperdine students have created changes on campus recently as well. A Housing and Residence Life policy that would have reallocated housekeeping resources away from the student apartments was overturned for this academic year due to student discontent.
Why are students complaining about a lack of housekeeping rather than focusing on more pressing issues that affect them? It baffles me that a campus filled with over-achievers looking to start non-profits and participate in NGOs for world change are unwilling or disinterested in forming a coalition on campus.
Sure, we have the beach and celebrities surrounding us, but there are issues beyond maid services that need to be addressed. A time will come when we are no longer students at Pepperdine in a bubble protected from the outside world. So let’s start caring now. We have the capacity to cause change, as seen with HRL. We just need students to transcend meek routines and act. Let’s get rallied and upset in a way that persuades administration to alter current policies.
In 2012, debates on both sides arose on campus surrounding Reach OUT’s campaign to recognize the LGBT community. During this time, the online Graphic reported groups such as the Student Government Association were in support of Reach OUT, but administration ultimately denied the group.
According to Pepperdine’s handbook, the school condemns harassment toward anyone regardless of sexual identity, but it does not officially recognize the LGBT student organization that promotes peace and acceptance to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.
Pepperdine offers opportunities, such as the “Transforming the LGBT Conversation” convo put on last year. Yet it denies the student group the same rights as other groups on campus. This inconsistency is problematic. This one example is a great opportunity for student voices to be heard, yet it has been years since controversial debates contributed to conversations on campus.
Two years ago, students rallied for and against the administration’s decision to deny recognition to the student group. While this was indeed an example of student activism on campus, it is two years removed. It was a rare occurrence, and it ended nearly as fast as it began. We have been walking complacently and uninterested regarding important issues in our world for far too long.
Since 2003, Pepperdine has offered a Freedom Wall for students to anonymously speak out on issues they may be hesitant to vocalize normally. This can be a great starting point for student activism, but each year it falls short of its potential. Foul comments and careless jokes between friends ensue upon the wall, which takes emphasis away from serious remarks. The Freedom Wall begins as a forum for students to express concerns and a need for change, but conversation tends to terminate the moment the week ends.
As college students, we are allowed to develop a sense of opinion even if it goes against the majority. We are allowed to be bold. We are allowed to use our education as a source of credibility in expressing these opinions. Pepperdine students are not ill educated — in fact, we are tied with schools such as George Washington University and Tulane, according to US News rankings.
Let’s use our education and our brains to act. Let’s get out of our bubble and show the world that we are more than beach bums.
Follow Ashlie Benson on Twitter: @Ashlie_Corina