Despite COVID, student activism is making an impact at WC

By Emma Reilly
Opinion Editor

At Washington College, activism is an important part of the student experience. Activism allows students to speak for themselves, address issues they are concerned about, and make change on campus.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted WC students’ participation in activism, but not even physical distance could completely disrupt students’ determination to speak up.

According to junior Jonah Nicholson, student activism was on the rise at WC even before the pandemic.

Those interested in promoting the equal treatment of students in the classroom, making space for all student voices to be heard, and encouraging the diversification of the College’s curriculum were making waves on campus in 2019.

Discussion about the attacks on Black students that occured on campus in the fall “evolved into protesting which evolved into meetings with administration and things like that. It really was on the upward momentum,” Nicholson said.

Though the pandemic certainly affected student participation in advocacy efforts, many students were still determined to get involved and make change from home.

“Our students have such a deep passion for advocacy and helping other students who are underrepresented…they’ve been really good about using technology and other means to advocate for students,” Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs Carese Bates said.

According to Bates, although the pandemic changed student activism, it did not prevent it from happening.

“Of course…the pandemic has impeded physical gatherings and things like that, but our students…pivoted. So [activism] just looks different in regards to having more virtual meetings. We might not be able to meet in person, but we still can do outreach,” Bates said.

Whether WC students are on campus or online, activism is worth pursuing. By advocating for themselves and others, students bring their unique perspective to the table. The more students that participate in activism on campus, the more inclusive the College’s consideration of different experiences, cultures, and identities will be.  

“When it comes to the institution, we don’t want just the Board of Visitors and Governors making those decisions, or just senior administrators making those decisions,” Nicholson said. “In the end, what they do affects us.”

As students adapt to being in person again, they should strive to engage with on-campus issues in whatever way suits them best.

“Activism doesn’t look the same across the board. It doesn’t necessarily look like protesting. It could be going to diversity training to educate yourself in a safe space or doing that self education to understand the plights underrepresented students go through,” Bates said.

There is no reason to assume that activism at WC is on hold because of the pandemic’s lasting effects. Students can make change simply by participating in conversation, educating themselves on different issues, or joining a student organization.

According to Bates, the Student Government Association, Office of Intercultural Affairs, and Office of Student Engagement all provide resources for navigating activism on campus and opportunities for advocacy to students.

It will greatly benefit the WC community if students are able to get involved and speak up about their concerns now that campus is open again. Rebuilding the sense of passion and urgency students cultivated in previous semesters will aid the College in its necessary pursuit of diversity and openness.

So, whether you were involved with student activism pre-pandemic, from home while classes were on Zoom, or not at all, now is the time to keep the push for change alive at WC.

Elm Archive Photo
Featured Photo Caption: Advocacy has provided an outlet for WC students who want to see change on campus both before, during, and after the pandemic.

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