By Kyle Elphick
President Donald J. Trump has awakened a sleeping giant. We’d be wise to not let it fall so deeply asleep again.
My first semester at the College was defined by your typical first-year experiences: midnight runs to T-Dubs, trying out countless clubs and laughing at your two friends who actually engaged in “floorcest.”
Yet, through it all, I realized my college experience seemed to be missing something. It was hard to determine exactly what it was, but it dealt that I didn’t feel this sense of higher purpose, as I imagined it was typical for a college student to feel.
Around Thanksgiving break, the thought I was searching for finally hit me: The College lacks a campus-wide culture of political activism.
Of course, individual students and clubs have always proved politically focused. Yet, the desire to participate in political discourse was not shared by the student body at large.
I included myself in this criticism. Inside the campus bubble, the problems of the real world seemed to fade away. I spent more time thinking about classes, student organizations and friends than I did the upcoming presidential election.
The happenings at our tight-knit college seemed more relevant than whatever insane thing Trump said on the campaign trail.
Besides, Hillary Clinton was going to win anyway, right?
Of course, we all know how the story goes. Trump broke down the Democrat’s blue wall and won an election that pundits said he should have dropped out of a week prior.
It shocked the world, and it shocked our campus. It was a result that reduced many of us to stunned silence and tears.
But then, something started to happen.
Suddenly, for the first time in my two years at the College, that all-encompassing political activism, which I began to believe was not a part of this school’s culture, moved to the mainstream.
College President R. Barbara Gitenstein sent an email to the College community the morning of Nov. 9, calling for commitment “to positive action in our lives and our community.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Amy Hecht also sent a mass email to students the day after the election, promoting a discussion with English Professor David Blake entitled, “Understanding the 2016 Presidential Election Results.”
Many professors, including my own, devoted their classes to political discussion or related the election to their course’s topic.
Spurred by these actions and their own emotions, students began to fill the Library, Eickhoff Hall and dormitories with thoughtful political talk. Protests sprung up in Alumni Grove and on the steps of Green Hall.
As weeks have passed, the heat of this newly lit political fire has not cooled. The Women’s and Gender Studies Department bussed students and faculty to the women’s march in Washington D.C. Some of my classmates appeared in a headlining photo for a Newsweek article.
This all adds up to the fact the election of Trump awakened a political spirit on campus that was otherwise wasting away as it lay dormant. The College is composed of thousands of intelligent, talented and powerful young women and men.
Trump was the catalyst for this college to tap into its potential, enabling it to make real, lasting and meaningful contributions to political discourse.
My only ask is this: We mustn’t grow weary as the election fades further into the past. Political activism can’t just be sparked in four-year intervals. There is so much to fight for right now.
Let’s keep expressing our opinions, protesting and taking real action to ensure political activism is permanently ingrained into the culture of this college. Future political eras could prove less volatile than our own, so let’s establish a tradition of activism now to carry this school through years where thoughtful discourse isn’t as sexy.
The College’s political voice is and should stay a giant that can’t be stopped. Now is not the time to sleep. Stay woke.