Verbum Ultimum: From Apathy to Activism
On Feb. 28, the Obama campaign's Greater Together Student Summit Tour will be coming to the College in an effort to engage students in a conversation about issues relevant to the next election and teach students about how they can become involved in the reelection campaign ("Obama campaign will host campus training," Feb. 21). The stated goal of the tour is to provide an opportunity for young voters in key states to "weigh in" on the issues that matter to them and learn how to organize to support the campaign on high school and college campuses.
The campaign team's decision to visit Dartmouth is a testament to the power that Dartmouth students have to shape the next election. As a swing state that also has the luxury of holding the first primary, New Hampshire has the power to shape national politics. As a result, Hanover is not unaccustomed to frequent visits from politicians of both parties looking to garner support from local residents and college students alike.
Despite the power that college students have to shape the next election, however, the average Dartmouth student seems generally disinterested in political activism and organizing around social issues. Of late, activism at Dartmouth often has remained confined to a small sector of campus and fails to engage the broader student body.
The Dartmouth campus has not always been one of general political apathy. Between 1966 and 1970, the Vietnam War sparked a string of protests on Dartmouth's campus. Students protested the presence of the ROTC at Dartmouth, which was seen as supporting involvement in Vietnam. These efforts were met by counter-protests organized by students supportive of the College.
In 1985, a group of Dartmouth students built shanties on the Green to protest the College's continued investment in apartheid-era South Africa. The shanties were destroyed in 1986 by a group of students, which compelled other students to occupy Parkhurst Hall to protest what they saw as administrative inaction toward those who had destroyed the shanties.
While we recognize that the topics that sparked the protests of the past are specific to the issues of the times, we encourage Dartmouth students to revive this spirit of engagement with events outside of the College. Students often claim to be overwhelmed, and apathy about world events and national issues may be easy, but we as Dartmouth students have the power to effect change about issues we care about. Students should become more active in organizing around the issues that spark their passions.
Too often at Dartmouth, those that are engaged in political activism are ignored or even criticized for organizing around an issue and expressing their opinions. The 2012 presidential election has drawn attention to our small College, and students should take advantage of the opportunity to make their voices heard.