RICHARDS: At Villanova, we’re active, but not activists

Amy Richards

Have you ever made a picket sign or spoken out against a perceived injustice in a public setting? Very few of us on campus actually have. Is it that there are fewer injustices faced by our generation, and thus less to protest about, or are Villanova students just apathetic?

It doesn’t seem that campus’s lacking spirit of protest is due to either of these trends. In fact, the spirit of social justice is alive and strong at Villanova. Our generation faces countless issues that many students hope to address, which include fighting for marginalized populations of the world, advocating for the rights of those who are discriminated against, taking a stance on health care reform, arguing for or against current wars, raising awareness for victims of domestic violence, campaigning for medicines to treat AIDS patients or acting in the name of humanitarian intervention in genocide. The list of issues that concern students is extensive.

Every day, a student will find a series of tables strategically placed at the Oreo to raise students’ awareness about specific causes.

While the tables might offer a few facts on a flyer, awareness on campus is typically achieved through fundraising. Raising money provides a cause or organization with the resources necessary for spreading awareness and working toward a problem’s eradication. However, it is perhaps the easiest way to take up a specific cause as one’s own.

Students are talented fundraisers; we know all the tricks to raising money. Fundraising, however, is ultimately a neat way to get in and out, provide some support and feel good about a cause, while sporting a T-shirt that shows we are anything but apathetic. As a group endeavor, it is fun for everyone involved, especially when it involves a concert, dance or competition.

In the end, we choose the nicer alternative by fundraising or raising “awareness” with posters and speakers who do the speaking for us. We work toward a goal without getting our hands dirty.

Rarely do we witness students organizing or recruiting student supporters to actually fight for a cause – to rally, to protest, to face the perpetrators of said injustice and work for change. Why not?

First, protesting, learning how to argue, writing letters and picketing are more difficult than fundraising. Secondly, it is just not that cool to protest anymore. While our parents’ generation was alive with the spirit of social unrest, endowed with the ceaseless fight for some greater good, we’ve never been exposed to the ’60s and ’70s.

Many students have never witnessed a sit-in, die-in, walk-out or lock-down, let alone a mass movement of people in the name of justice. Many students here believe that people on soapboxes appear silly, not empowered. Why is there a difference for us? It is possible that the issues simply do not touch students as closely as the War in Vietnam or the Civil Rights Movement reached young people in generations past.

Detachment from injustices of this sort certainly plays a role in keeping the Villanova community quiet. Regarding the socioeconomic status of many students, it turns out that most of us have not had to arm ourselves against real social injustices to arrive at the place we are today.

But there is a deep pool of causes that students might be expected to address. After all, so much of the social change of the past century has depended on the work and active voices of students.

In many ways, it is our responsibility to speak up and act out against what we understand to be injustice, for students have effectively guided the nation in correcting countless social iniquities throughout history. College campuses have acted as the arenas for some of the greatest acts of courage and most effective social movements for decades.

At Villanova, however, it seems that we have given up on our ability to engage in social justice in the most natural way: by standing up and saying how we feel or arguing that the status quo simply will not do.

Many of us have never tapped into our freedoms of speech at all. Megaphones are a staple of many college campuses throughout the United States, while at Villanova, many individuals are discouraged from raising their voices. There have been numerous plans for rallies at Villanova which have fallen flat without much explanation, while awareness weeks continue without outward signs of authentic activism. Protesting, contacting our representatives and rallying make us just uncomfortable enough not to directly take on a cause.

Instead, we associate social movement with hippies and minority groups, and we understand our role in social justice as fundraisers and awareness-creators.

Stepping out of line to argue for something we believe in takes a great deal of courage and a consistent group of like-minded peers, ingredients that are ever-present on Villanova’s campus. However, the impetus for social movement is on the line.

It is up to us to revive it.


Amy Richards is a senior honors, Spanish and global interdisciplinary studies major from Kings Park, N.Y. She can be reached at [email protected].