Student activism thrives at UT

Brendalys Lebron

Today’s college freshmen are more likely to engage in on-campus political activism than their counterparts in any other period, according to a new survey of freshman behavior conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.

The survey, reported on by the Chronicle of Higher Education, found freshmen in 2016 are even more active than students in the 1960s and ’70s, who engaged in wide-scale civil rights movements. According to the survey, the rise in activism has taken place across all races and for both liberals and conservatives.

Eric Tang, assistant professor in African and African diaspora studies, said student protests have become more aligned with larger social issues since the 1960s.

“It’s no coincidence that, within a year of the protests in Ferguson, African-American students at the University of Missouri engaged in the most significant student struggle for racial justice on any campus in decades — one that led to the firing of the University of Missouri’s president,” said Tang, director of the Social Justice Institute at UT.

Tang said social movements can generate momentum for college students to become more involved and take action.

“One can infer … many of the students who led this Missouri campus protest were exposed to — politically awakened by — the events in Ferguson,” Tang said. “They took inspiration and lessons from what they witnessed in the community and applied them to their campus struggle.”

Social work sophomore Israel Guerrero said as a member of the LGBTQ and undocumented communities, they are inspired to join organizations that focus on creating change in these communities. Guerrero said protests raise public awareness for anti-discrimination causes.

“Protests take place because we’re tired of having to see our communities face injustices,” Guerrero said.

In the last few years, UT students have rallied against the Shared Services Plan, campus carry and racist themed frat parties and have also engaged in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Maliha Mazhar, communication director for the University Democrats, said student activism plays a strong role in the University.

“Student activism is definitely a huge part of the UT community, and that is something to be very proud of,” said Mazhar, government and international business senior. “I think students have done a tremendous job in showing up and voicing their oppositions to things they find to be unjust."