Students need to get involved when it matters to effect change

Mary Dolan

College is a time when many students begin to express their political beliefs, and, at a school such as UT, there are always plenty of opportunities for students to make their voices heard. Unfortunately, they don’t always take advantage of these opportunities. While many students have taken steps to participate in debates, such as the campus carry forums, others have been hesitant or simply apathetic. It is important for these students, whatever side they are on, to speak up if they want their opinions heard.

UT has a history of activism, but high-profile movements tend to have a low impact unless they encourage more students to speak out. For example, while campus carry was a topic of interest last spring, few students truly spoke out about it during the last couple months of the school year. However, since the campus carry bill passed in June, students against the law have engaged in the kind of “delayed activism” that will do little or nothing to reverse the decision.

If students want the movements they support to stay strong and remain prominent, they need to join in when it really matters. History professor Joan Neuberger said some students spoke against campus carry earlier this year, but the bill passed anyway.   

“Students were very active … in arguing against campus carry before the [Texas] Legislature,” Neuberger said. “Their group, Students Against Guns, was very vocal in bringing their opposition to the attention of Texas lawmakers.”

It was not enough. But since the passing of SB 11, students have become more active in their support and opposition to the issue, which is one reason that the debate has stayed so prominent. Because campus carry is one of the bigger events to affect UT in recent years, students have become heavily invested in the debate since the bill passed. The last demonstration took place Thursday on the Main Mall.
Ashley Alcantara, international relations and global studies senior and University Democrats communications director, said it was important for students to get involved in student debates and in the campus carry debate specifically.

“While legislators and UT administrators are the ones who will decide how the law is implemented, students are ultimately the ones who will be directly affected by guns,” Alcantara said. “Because of this, it’s important that students speak up … so that their opinion is taken into account.”

Campus carry is already in the spotlight, but both sides can still benefit from having like-minded students weigh in with their support. The bigger an activist group gets, the greater chance it has of making a change.

Other campus groups should take cues from the students involved in the campus carry debate. Going into the future, there will no doubt be more protests and movements around campus long after campus carry has been put to rest. But if they stay focused and convince students to act, these groups will be able to rise to become truly influential around campus and beyond.

Dolan is a journalism sophomore from Abilene. Follow her on Twitter @mimimdolan.