What Activism Looks Like on College Campuses

Activism looks different on college campuses for various reasons. For example, activism will be different on our campus versus the University of Kentucky’s campus because we are a private institution and they are public institution. Because we are a private campus, Transy’s administration has more control about what type of behavior, activities, and moreare allowed or not allowed on campus; in addition, they have more control about what disciplinary measures can be taken. This is one reason why activism on our campus looks different than another university, especially a public college like the University of Kentucky.

In the fall of 2014, lots of students at Oberlin protested after the killing of Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old African American boy who was shot by police because they suspected him for having a gun. Bautista, a student at Oberlin, claimed “a lot of [students] started suffering academically” because a great deal of protests happened off-campus, meaning that that students would have to travel great distances if they wanted to be a part of the movements (Heller). In the early 1970s, Oberlin modified its grading standards to accommodate activism around the Vietnams War and Kent State shootings (Heller). This type of accommodation resembles the type of change that I would like to see happen on our campus not only for the purpose of activism but also for students with mental illness and/or other disabilities. Students with disabilities need certain accommodations when it comes to academics, and it is important that their needs are met by the University and its staff.

Following this example of accommodations, Heller goes on to say explain that there exists a common belief held by some that “the new activists are naïve about the demands of the real world” (Heller). In other words, this means that some people believe that those who participate in these new forms of activism (i.e. demand for trigger warnings in college classrooms) are approaching problems incorrectly and demanding unrealistic outcomes. To some degree, I believe that this belief could be directed at our project as well; that is because there is a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about mental health and other disabilities. Because some people, including faculty/staff and administration, do not fully understand how mental health and other disabilities impact students’ academic performance, these same people might not be very receptive of our project/proposal(s).

In order to sell our project and goals as successfully as possible, there are some tactics that we can borrow or adapt from the cases that Heller mentions in her article “The New Activism of Liberal-Arts Colleges.” For instance, Heller mentions how in the nineteenth century, “Harvard professors taught a single, prescribed canon to a single, prescribed social circle,” but because so much more has been discovered since then and because we can—and should—adapt with the times, it is important that educate students with a new system that is the opposite of the old. The new way to teach our students should be one that focuses on the uniqueness of the campus and one that is tailored to fit each student’s needs so that they can succeed.


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