Electing your own activism

Coming down from the excitement surrounding the midterm elections, it is heartening to see that many students on campus embraced political activism during this important time. Most notably during last night’s discussion with the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, we have seen students, faculty and staff actively involved in creating and promoting the means for discourse so necessary at these political junctures. We applaud both those who made Mika Brzezinski ’89 and Joe Scarborough’s presentation at the College possible and also the more than 400 students who took time out of their busy schedules to attend. We hope that the dynamic conversations continue even though the elections are over and the big cameras are packed up.

However, we have to wonder whether it’s legitimate to take a well-attended lecture as the sole barometer of whether we’re a politically active campus or not. Activism doesn’t come in just one form, and we can’t promote the idea that only the students who attended Scarborough’s lecture are truly politically active. Attending big events is certainly an exciting and convenient way to get involved, but there are a variety of other ways that we can be active. Students have been canvassing, running voter registration drives and holding phone banks, but there are other small ways to include those who don’t feel like they have a stake in the process. Students can exercise their right to vote, of course, and stay up to date on local and national issues, start discussions amongst friends or even just join a socially-minded Facebook group. These are all modest ways in which everyone can have an impact, and they don’t just crop up around election times.

Scarborough chose to hold his presentation at Williams specifically because of the College’s reputation as a nexus of activism, but it seems that activism on campus, or at least activism as we’ve been defining it, has been very much restricted to certain people at certain times. The College provides us with innumerable opportunities to engage in the spirit of activism, and we can’t take those opportunities for granted. We are incredibly lucky to have intelligent professors, fascinating lectures and dynamic student groups all right here on campus, and thus each individual has the ability to choose a preferred form of participation. Everyone can all be involved in political activism in some sense because the only thing that isn’t at all activism is apathy.