Everyday, after a long day of classes at the University of Vermont, I head over to the dining halls for some lunch and a free Boston Globe which is provided on campus as part of a college readership program. Instantly, I am disheartened by what confronts me, a large stack of Boston Globe’s reaching nearly to the ceiling. Why, you ask, would an everyday reader of the Boston Globe be disheartened by a towering stack of newspapers? Simple, because its a daily reminder of the decline of Americas youth.
The lack of newspaper readers on college campuses symbolizes a growing apathy among college students for gaining knowlegde and information that correlates to the lack of activism on college campuses. Students have become so wrapped up in having the ideal college experience for themselves that they don’t have the time nor interest to read about the events that take place in the world around them. It has become all about having the perfect career, or accumulating as many senseless personal honors as one can, and the ideal of college being a place where you can make a positive impact society and achieve change for the better has been lost.
While American college students walk in and out of dining halls not giving a second thought to picking up a paper, college students on the other corner of the world die for basic human rights that have eluded them for a lifetime. In the summer of 1999, returning to my native country of Iran to visit my family, I witnessed the power that college activism can have in bringing change to a society, and how the students played an essential role in the vitality of the state. Iran, a country living under theocracy for 25 years after the 1979 Islamic revolution, has seen its freedom of speech, religion and political particiapation evaporate from reality to a dream.
In the summer of 1999, after spurring parliamentary and presidential reforms years earlier, college students in Tehran, the nations capitol, took to the streets deciding that they needed to sacrifice their lives to preserve their livelihoods. Students were beaten and then tossed through dorm balconies, many plummeting to their death. Thousands were arrested and 8 people were reported killed in the protests. The shattered glass from dorm windows remained, penetrating ones feet as you walked down the streets of downtown Tehran, and symbolzing the courage and fearlessnesses displayed by a resilient student population who were motivated by one force. Change
Although the students were generally unsuccessful in bringing about governmental reforms they were successful in displaying their voices to the world. They were dying for the right to be able to print their own papers and not have the government print it for them. They utilized their University as a vessel for change and demonstrated the unique power of being a university student.
Here at UVM, there are many people who care about global issues confronting the world today and there are many clubs attempting to deal with such issues. However, such groups and organizations at UVM, a school known for student activism are more under the radar clubs that don’t garner nearly as much support as fraternities and sororities that serve no other purpose then to get as insanely drunk as you can and pass out every weekend. It is sad to walk into a political speech on campus and see that most of the people in attendence are local residents.
What college students should take out of the case in Iran is that they have the privelage of being able to express themselves and it’s not a universal right that should be taken for granted. The next time you walk past a newspaper neglect to even glance at the front cover and remember the people whose lives were lost so they could read the daily paper and not see propaganda. but information. More importantly, its time that American youth make a difference, because to not do so is an injustice to those who are not afforded such opportunities