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Opinion: The myth of student apathy

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Our generation has come of age in an era of crisis. We are a generation intimately familiar with the intertwined crises of financial collapse, global ecological devastation, unending imperialist wars and racist prison profiteering. We certainly know the brutal economic exploitation that has left our generation burdened with over $1 trillion in collective student loan debt and without the jobs to pay it back. And yet, despite the bleak realities that we are bound to inherit, millennials are somehow blamed for the declining state of society. Our supposed flaw? Apathy.

It is one of the most popular reactionary myths of today that young people are too self-absorbed to care about the most pressing issues of our time. The myth of “student apathy” is perpetuated in order to redirect attention away from the true culprit behind the profound crises we face: the economic and political system itself. By suppressing critiques of capitalism and representative democracy and shifting the blame to young people’s “apathy,” the small group of wealthy elites who actually benefit from the current system avoid the sort of social upheaval that can reorganize society to the benefit of the vast majority. Although it is true that the apparent inevitability of the current system, despite its obvious failures, prevents students from feeling empowered, the reality is that students are now more socially and politically engaged than those from almost any past generation.

Just this month, roughly one hundred Ohio University students rallied with Alpha Phi Alpha against police brutality in a march against the extrajudicial killings of young black men. On Friday, another group of student activists called f*ckrapeculture will hold a march to disrupt the rape culture on our campus, which is one of the most abominable examples of women’s oppression today. Other students in the Sierra Student Coalition are gearing up to make sure our university does not replace a climate-destroying coal plant with a dirty natural gas plant. The Ohio University Student Union supports all of these efforts and is working to build a student movement that is unafraid to use confrontational means to assert our collective interests as students. All of these examples and others demonstrate the growing number of students at Ohio University that are empowered to work outside traditional avenues to effect social change.

In every level of society, we are witnessing the beginning of a shift away from failed methods of attempting to create change. Here on campus, students are losing interest in the old methods of student senate politely asking administrators and elite trustees to stop exploiting us. Instead, students are taking their concerns into their communities to open up dialogue and build alternative power structures. As students, we have the power to change the culture and structure of Ohio University, and as young people we have the power to change the structure of society.

This article was written by Jacob Chaffin. The Ohio University Student Union meets Thursdays at 8pm in Baker 237.

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