Student political activism plays an integral role in promoting education and awareness of national issues, raising the caliber of our educational experience. The community at large on Princeton’s campus is positively influenced simply by the enthusiastic presence of those who care passionately about issues that affect students and citizens.
A recent example is Princeton Students for Education Reform. Founded in 2009 by two Princeton students, SFER has made an impression on Princeton’s campus with its commitment to community organizing. Through its D-Series, where it hosts small discussion groups of students, it brings news of recent developments in education policy to campus. SFER also took its message across the state of New Jersey through its postcard campaign for the TEACH NJ Act, a bill Governor Christie signed into law this past summer to reform teacher tenure. Princeton students in SFER traveled to different college campuses in New Jersey to inform voters about the bill and get signatures for their postcard campaign. SFER should be commended for its work in getting students on campus involved in national issues and for creating a forum for passionate discussion of issues surrounding education reform.
The Princeton Equality Project is another great example of such student activism; last February, the ‘Prince’ recognized its role in expanding gender-neutral housing in upperclass dorms. The Princeton Equality Project’s student-organized petition was instrumental in persuading the administration to take a more serious look at gender-neutral housing and the positive impact it can have on the student body. As a result, there are now 278 gender-neutral housing spots for students, more than five times the amount from previous years.
Regardless of whether you agree with SFER or PEP’s causes or methods, they have served an important role in sparking student discussion about political issues relevant to us as Princeton students, but it is important to realize that more work must be done to include a larger portion of the student body. Many of the political groups on campus are fairly homogenous. To promote a healthier and livelier campus political debate, student organizations ought to work harder to bring in opposing viewpoints and perspectives. Students should take advantage of events held by multiple groups that seek to further discussion on political activism. For example, the Whig-Cliosophic Society, the College Republicans, the College Democrats and P-Votes will be hosting a panel discussion on Princeton’s campus political activity through the years featuring President Shirley Tilghman and Vice President and Secretary Bob Durkee ’69 this Thursday. Other groups should get together to foster debate and discussion.
Furthermore, campus political activity excludes a large number of relevant social issues. Issues like criminal justice reform, poverty or sex trafficking have minimal presence, if any, among politically related student organizations. Princeton students must organize to increase both the breadth and depth of activism on campus to ensure that other important issues are not left out of the debate.
It is vital for students to take responsibility and channel their own ability and voice to speak out for or against important issues that matter to them. We support student efforts to raise awareness and promote campus discussion, as apathy can be one of the greatest barriers to progress. We encourage all Princeton students to find their own role in Princeton’s political activism and make a push against the stereotype of apathy toward a more politically active and aware student body.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/24/31220/