College students and political activism are no strangers to one another. From the time of desegregation and the women’s liberation, to the more recent election of strongly opinionated President Donald Trump and an emboldened #MeToo movement, it is nearly impossible to avoid the intersection of differing yet passionate political beliefs. This is particularly true when you’re on any college campus in the US during this day and age.
This is not the first time in history with severe political unrest and it certainly won’t be the last. Students, while not always the center of politics, are often greatly affected by what’s going on in the world around them. As racial tensions and violent political discourse become more and more rampant, college campuses can become a battleground full of campaign stops, rallies, and of course, protests. With the influx of these kinds of events, uproars become unavoidable, and students in the thick of it all often find themselves overwhelmed.
Today’s political environment won’t make it more difficult to focus on learning, but it can certainly disrupt your daily routine at school. Generally you end up feeling one of two things: a desire to immerse yourself in the movement(s) or the complete opposite, wishing to remove yourself from the “noise” and maintaining partiality. But how do you do one or the other?
There are likely to be many student organizations at your school, and some will have the specific purpose of following politics. If your desire is to engage in a “side”, so to speak, you can seek out a club that shares your views and jump right in to join the activism. Do you want to be part of or even lead a peaceful protest? Perhaps arrange a town hall with a politician to discuss in open forum your concerns? Be sure to outline what is entailed in the message you wish to convey, and how you wish for that message to be delivered. Know your rights, and the legal ways to protest, but stand tall and voice your truth. The value of freedom of speech in America has no measure, and you should never hesitate to be heard.
If you’re more inclined to stay neutral and avoid confrontation, good ways to divert yourself can include simply not attending any of the aforementioned events. You can also opt for different routes to class if the ones you regularly take are inundated with protestors. Of course, in a time chock full of technology, another key way to keep yourself from commotion is a reduction of social media use. At a time when so many people are screaming to make their points, you can simply disconnect from the yelling by logging off.
It should be noted that college is known for being a time in a student’s life where they will be most exposed to differing social, cultural, and world views. If a medium between ignoring all politics and immersing yourself is possible, that’s the space where a student should probably want to exist. One of the best things about being at university is learning critical thinking, and the ability to see things from different angles. Where you can, do a little of both things: stay back where you don’t see a need to dissent, and march forward when you feel a cause is worth it. It’s all part of being a student in the US.