Colleges should be the instruments of social change

One student’s frustrations with the reluctancy of campus involvement

Bill Hamm
Staff Writer

Since they began, colleges have been a tool to flush out new ideas and theories, the supporter of radicals and anarchists. The producers of great thinkers, theorists, and dreamers, the cradle of societal creationism. Why am I, a 64-year-old political activist/student finding it so hard to stimulate action, or reaction, on Minnesota’s second largest campus. A campus with a history of past dissent that, from all appearances, has become a toothless tiger.

Having completed my Associate of Arts at a two-year college where issue tabling was not greatly encouraging, but not discouraged either, yet at this university level there is no mechanism that allows it. I have found it more than a bit depressing that at MNSU, a lone wolf like myself must pay a $50 per day tabling fee to agitate/organize on any controversial issue. What is the fear here? That I might block a bridge and shut down commerce in Mankato? Can I be the only one who does not understand why activism and agitation are so systematically discouraged at MNSU? Does no one else understand how this undermines adequate opportunity for the growth of ideas and understanding at a time when we so desperately need them.

Have our institutions of education so maneuvered students into pacifist activities and thought patterns that real descent is effectively quelled? Have our young adults been so shielded and pacified by the K-12 education system and its “anti-violence” efforts that they have been purged of American exceptionalism and our spirit of independence? Have we transferred, by assimilation, all opposition, political dissent, and dissatisfaction to the realm of technology and virtual reality? This, so we can live in our self-created and safe “Artificial Reality Zone,” comfortable and beyond ever having to deal with the frustrations of a failed/failing political system? Is political change now just a nostalgic relic of our collective fading memory, wishful thinking? Are all the old intellectuals too happily engaged in their medicated rapture of research to teach radical engagement?

These are the kind of important questions that believers and dreamers use to ask themselves and others in our institutions of higher learning. The beginning of the effort to figure out how to create the energy and momentum needed to motivate and invigorate students toward improvement and growth in the human condition. In our present time, the energy needed to save this planet both politically and environmentally.

The constant degradation of freedom that my generation has lived through and recognizes as political oppression, this generation can’t even conceptualize as possible. Now we have states, including Minnesota, attempting to criminalize dissent even further by making it illegal to organize or train protestors. These present efforts are directly targeted at Native American pipeline protests and Black Lives Matter metro protestors standing against police brutality. Stand up to these attacks on our First Amendments rights. Show your strength and make yourselves heard.

Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 by snowcrash98

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