As I browsed Facebook the other day, status updates and articles shared about Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump flooded my news feed. I switched to Twitter and saw #FeelTheBern and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain tags everywhere.
I’ve always been politically active. In 2012, I supported Mitt Romney and wore his campaign button until he ultimately lost. Not once did someone ask about my views or engage me in a conversation about them.
This election, I’m supporting Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination. I’ve worn his button for two weeks and have received more than a few glances, comments and even conversations because of it.
Plattsburgh State students seem to be much more interested during the 2016 presidential election.
“Out of the 141,189 full-time college freshmen survey participants, 8.5 percent of the students said they had a ‘very good chance’ of participating in student demonstration, which showed a 2.9 percent growth from 2014,” according study conducted by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program.
Student demonstrations have been on the rise over the past few months. This includes the Black Lives Matter protests and various anti-sexual harassment demonstrations. Eight in 10 college freshmen endorse same-sex marriage, and over half support legalizing marijuana and abortion, USA Today reported.
“Students are exposed to everything (that is) going on, whether it’s issues related to college cost or sexual assault or racist and sexist events that are going on around campus,” CIRP Assistant Director Ellen Stolzenberg said in an interview with USA Today.
Many of the demonstrations center around racial injustice and economic inequality, which are both pressing issues for political campaigns this year. At colleges like Dartmouth College, Amherst College and Mizzou University, protests made front page news. These protests sometimes resulted in change, such as Ithaca College’s president stepping down after demonstrations about racial equality.
This newly found activism seems to be a flashback to the anti-war and civil rights protests.
“Today’s protests, like those in the ’60s, are memorable because they have been effective in pushing for change and sparking dialogue as well as polarization,” NYU history professor Robert Cohen said in article in the LA Times.
Will these demonstrations lead to a record turnout for college students in the presidential election? I wouldn’t hold my breath, but it certainly is possible.
The amount of college students who “Feel the Bern” is astounding to me. The candidacy of Bernie Sanders has turned into a social movement — one that seems to be here to stay.
Is there a downside to this left-wing, social activism across college campuses?
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro recently gave a speech at CSULA and faced harsh protests. Student activists and professors surrounded the entrance to where he was giving his speech and prevented other students from leaving or entering, according to the Daily Signal, a news organization focused on political news.
“We had to be escorted by a full police cordon as well as a motorcade thanks to safety concerns,” Shapiro tweeted.
Activism is fine, but censorship is not. I hope and pray that students across the country don’t fall victim to the mentality of sheltering themselves from adverse opinion – no matter the ideologies we live by.
Email Joseph Bochichio at firstname.lastname@example.org