You know it’s bad when the scientists are marching. In the months following the Nov. 2016 election, STEM-field graduate students rallied together for a multitude of causes, from prison reform to climate change. This phenomenon reflected a widespread sense of alarm regarding the Trump administration’s disdain for crafting policies based on evidence and its active dismantling of vital government institutions, such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Our own student organization, the , was forged from an initial fervor of activism: for us, evidence-based policy is not just desirable, but fundamental — even imperative — to the structure of a healthy society. Achieving this requires fostering a sense of personal and collective responsibility within our community to create and maintain conversations related to critical social issues and advocacy goals.
With these ideas in mind, we, alongside Princeton Advocates for Justice, organized the . This full-day event saw over 1500 campus and community members come together to engage in dialogue, teaching, and learning through 64 teach-ins, as well as performances and town hall meetings. Our goal that day was to inspire critical discussion and to connect individuals with organizations and ways to get involved. Perhaps more importantly, we also aimed to establish an environment where intersectional coalitions and cross-disciplinary collaborations could be catalyzed in the pursuit of common advocacy goals. We consider the Day of Action to have been a experiment in community organizing in which we observed the convergence of a diverse community of individuals.
Many of the teach-ins from that day were recorded. With permission, we have now released these videos and made them . We believe that they are valuable resources in continuing to educate the University community, as well as the general public, about current matters we are facing as a nation: nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war, race and activism, climate change and threats to the environment, U.S. immigration policies, and the media and the importance of the free press, to name just a few.
One year on, halfway to the 2018 midterm elections, advocacy and activist groups are now beginning the real hard work: sustaining the advocacy effort. With much of the initial passion drained, grit and determination become critical to maintaining the efforts that will lead to lasting change. In the year ahead, we must continue to highlight the pressing need for civic engagement and to stimulate vital discourse on the critical issues we face as a local community, a nation, and a society. We have specifically chosen to release the Day of Action teach-in videos this week to remind ourselves (i) of the power, creativity, and passion we showed as a community in our ability to break traditional barriers of hierarchies, professions, and causes; (ii) that we can continue to come together; and (iii) that there is still a lot of work left to be done. The results of the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections this week, as well as numerous other elections around the country, indicate that the swell in involvement and energy we experienced one year ago is not diminished. However, we cannot afford complacency now. Sustained and thoughtful action on the part of student advocates will prove critical in the year ahead.
Mike Hepler and Krupa Jani are the President and Vice President of the Princeton Citizen Scientists, respectively. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.