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They’re your problems, too

gareth

GARETH MCNAMARA

While the College of Wooster has always nurtured a good number of advocacy and activist groups for an institution its size, I think it’s fair to say that in recent years we’ve seen an increase in campus activism. As well as promoting national and international causes, students have turned their gaze inwards, scrutinizing their own campus community and making it their mission to better it. This mission has taken many forms and addressed many issues: the effects of outsourcing dining services to increasing tuition; from rape culture and sexual violence on campus to ethical purchasing practices; from the problematic relationship between diversity and tokenism to various environmental campaigns. All of these issues are important, and throughout my years here I have seen the College’s administration demonstrate an increasing willingness to work with students to find solutions where they can. There is, without a doubt, more that can be done on this front. But, the College administration aside, what about students’ willingness to work with each other? There’s still a perception, I think, that many of the things I’ve listed above are special interest issues. That these issues are only of concern to a specific sub-section of the student population. Women’s issues. Worker’s issues. Issues for people with less money than me. Issues for people with a different skin color than me. They only affect a handful of people; why should I be concerned? Why should you? Because they’re not special interest issues. They’re student issues. The National Institute of Justice and Center for Disease Control figures show that one in six American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. 80 percent of these incidents occur while the victims are under the age of 30. Nearly half of all victims of rape report expecting it to happen again, but only as few as five percent seek help or report it to the authorities. Since 1978, the average cost of college tuition has increased 900 percent (650 points above inflation for those of you who are counting). Just over half of recent graduates face unemployment or underemployment, and the default rate for student loans is estimated at one in five and rising. And, in case you weren’t already aware, bankruptcy won’t clear your student loans the way it will other kinds of debt. North Americans and Europeans discard about 240 pounds of food waste per person a year, enough to feed each one of those people for an additional two months. In these and other developed regions, 11 tons of raw material typically yields only one ton of product. If the environmental impact of this kind of waste doesn’t concern you, think about the monetary loss. I could go on, but you know where this is going. These issues either affect you, or will affect you, or one or more people in your immediate circle. Sit back, think about it. Arguing that these things don’t impact you and those you care about means you’re either lying or oblivious. They’re not a special interest’s problem, a ranting radical’s problem, someone else’s problem. They’re your problem. The surge in activism on these and other issues on our campus is to be applauded and is very much needed. But the work of a few won’t get very far without the support of the rest of us. Activist groups on campus need to cooperate to achieve their common goals, not isolate themselves to one corner, one cause, one way. We, as a student body, need to recognize that these issues affect all of us and do what we can to help address them. Activism on our campus is gathering momentum, but it’s going to take all of our support to sustain it throughout the coming years.

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