It was unfortunate to witness The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and other news outlets reporting on the widespread student protest against the new Facebook features. The extent to which students are outraged by the characteristics of an online social network while remaining apathetic toward existing social and political concerns is astonishing.
It’s difficult to say when the last time thousands of students took a stance against one issue was, but student activism has a vibrant history. Campus organizing proved its energy during the civil rights movement, a crucial moment in American history. Student activism brought an end to the war in Vietnam, and in recent years, student activism challenged corporations to act ethically. The anti-sweatshop movement in the 1990s and early 2000s pressured corporations to the adherence of labor laws – changing the way Nike and others conduct their business. The movement was strong, drastically changing the lives of many workers. There is tremendous opportunity to get involved in different causes and in various capacities.
The Student Activities Office has a list of all registered campus groups, and students who are not satisfied by existing groups have the opportunity to create new groups. In many ways, what a student does outside of academics counts. This doesn’t mean neglecting one’s studies – but there should be a healthy balance.
One of the biggest groups on campus is Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, a grassroots advocacy and public interest group rooted in student engagement. MPRIG has worked on initiatives including environmental concerns, health care and student aid. There are various cultural organizations – some with centers on the second floor of Coffman Union, and others who don’t have a room, but still demonstrate their presence.
Whether one has an interest in local or international movements, many opportunities to participate are available. It is sad that many expressed outrage over Facebook without applying the same zeal toward the crisis in Darfur, the world’s famine crises, the numerous wars, or limited access to higher education and tuition. It would even be far nobler to protest dining hall food.