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Opinion: Don’t just stand there, do something

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Last week, students on campus rallied not once, but twice. Last Wednesday, a rally was held by the Ohio University chapter of the NAACP in the Scripps Amphitheater to show solidarity with the students of the University of Missouri and to discuss how we can improve racial relations on our own campus.

Many students of color shared their concerns and ideas. Some of the potential areas for improvement brought up included microaggression workshops, a push for cultural competency classes and more student involvement at organizational meetings, rather than just at parties. They also encouraged students to attend the Rally for Campus Democracy the next day.

That second rally was a part of the nationwide Million Student March, which aimed to lower tuition, provide a $15 minimum wage to campus workers and forgive pre-existing debt. Attending the rally were various student groups, including the Ohio University Student Union, the NAACP, the Real Food Challenge, Bobcats for Bernie and the Student Sierra Coalition.

A large group of students marched from Baker Center and down Morton Hill to the amphitheater located in front of the new residence halls on South Green, where each of the groups present had a representative speak about its specific issues.

As someone who’s always been slightly too passionate about social justice and activism, one of the reasons I chose to attend Ohio University is because of its strong history of student activism. I sat at home last year and anxiously refreshed social media as OU students marched in protest of rape culture and police brutality. That is why I’m always super excited when I get the chance to stand with my fellow students — at the F—RapeCulture March, #OUStandsWithMizzou or the Rally for Campus Democracy. Nothing beats the empowerment you feel when you stand with a crowd of your peers — as Ryan Powers said at the rally on Thursday, “We have incredible power when we act together.”

However, I must admit that in some ways I’ve been disappointed. On a campus of over 29,000 individuals, these events attract a relatively low turnout: around 100 people at each event, and in most cases, the same people. I find it hard to believe that there aren’t more people who want change. Some of my friends who regularly go on Twitter rants about social issues have never been to a rally or march, even though these events are definitely within their reach.

Are students scared to get involved because of the backlash they see from media, middle-aged people and anonymous Internet trolls? It’s hard to even consider activism an option if you’re terrified of the reaction you might receive. Even on our incredibly liberal campus, racism and ignorance are common. After the #OUStandsWithMizzou rally, a few racist posts appeared on Yik Yak, and the photos I tweeted with the hashtag #MillionStudentMarch attracted vicious comments from baby boomers calling student activists “entitled cry-babies.”

Having been a victim of internet backlash just for standing up for what I believe in, I can understand how it could be a turnoff to students who aren’t quite as radical or fully convinced that protesting is the best move. But the truth is that unless these groups get more numbers and greater vocal support from the student body at large, nothing will change.

I think most students can agree that mandatory cultural competency classes, as BLAC aims to implement, would benefit the student body. I think they can also agree that lower tuition, fairer pay for teachers and divestment from fossil fuels are good things.

So if you want a better tomorrow, do something for it. Don’t just be an armchair activist; attend a meeting or a rally or four or five. There’s a lot coming up in these last few weeks of the semester, and even if you can’t make it to anything before break, make it your New Year’s Resolution to get more involved on campus, even if it means having to fend off a few Internet trolls.

Get Involved:

Sign the petition to rescue the Student Advocacy Program

Nov. 17 — Solidarity Rally for Refugees

Nov. 19 — My Masculinity Helps workshop

Nov. 19 — Student Union Meeting: 8 p.m. Ellis 111

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