During the past academic year, an upsurge of student activism, a movement of millennials, has swept campuses across the country and has attracted the attention of the media. If you use any form of social media, you should be somewhat familiar with the movement of #BlackLivesMatter.
The movement came into play after grand juries in Ferguson, Miss. and Staten Island, N.Y. indicted the police officers responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
As the streets across America filled with protests—some peaceful, and some violent—students started focusing their energies inward. They sought ways to become beneficial and better understand the lives of the African American students.
This summer, a Black Lives Matter group called Students Against Mass Incarceration prompted New York’s Columbia University to drop its investments in private prisons. At Kalamazoo College in Mich., demonstrations last spring led officials to agree to open an intercultural center where minority students can find everyday support.
The responses to these campus protests have ranged from sympathy and solidarity to anger. Some media have portrayed black students as coddled, fragile or entitled, and always with the implication that they're overreacting to trivial issues. The common assumption is black students have nothing to complain about.
“With these assumptions, change is clearly not going to happen, and if they do it’s going to be very slow,” says Isabella Bodden, a sophomore theater production major here at Union College.
Because social media plays a huge role in political activities and quickly gets the word out to a wide variety of audiences, it can be a major key to positive change. Studies have shown that students who feel safer and more connected to their school do better socially and academically.
Martha Biondi, author of “The Black Revolution on Campus,” explains they're then more likely to get involved with campus activities.
Vernée Norman, a Union alumn who works closely with local issues about the Black Lives Matter movement, shares the platform the movement works off of has a list of demands it follows. It’s also committed to be inclusive but not limited to those who are women, queer, trans, femmes and gender nonconforming.
While progress may be slow on campuses, the fact that many campuses are willing to acknowledge the issues of social and political discrimination and injustice towards colored students and people is heading in a positive direction, and taking the steps to fix them is a pretty good start.
Caroline Guchu is a sophomore studying communication.