Where did the college campus go?

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By Ryan Semerad

I was recently talking with an older friend of mine as we strolled through Union’s campus and he asked me, “What happened to colleges?”

He told me about the great riots and protests he had witnessed during the 60’s when the college campus was a hotbed for social action and civil protest. He told me about the vigorous efforts of many like-minded thinkers to change the very world around them.

Today, he said, the college campus is dead.

There are no more protests about anything significant, and if there are, it is because outsiders, professors, or administrators come in with their own signs and opinions.  Meanwhile, the faculty has a forum to inform the student body about what is actually so controversial about the event being protested.

My friend asked me, ‘Why don’t people care anymore?’ I tried to think of a proper response.  I reasoned because there are too many problems these days, and we, as students, feel impotent and useless.

What can we do to prevent corporate deviance or governmental oppression? They’ve got billion-dollar bank rolls and the greatest military force in the history of the world; we’ve got exponentially-increasing debt and two midterm exams per class.

He dismissed my response by thinking, if each student took on one problem in the world, then, collectively, a difference could be made.

Since our conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve been thinking what is it that college kids actually care about these days? Do we really only care about how intoxicated we get on the weekends, who performs at concerts on campus, or how many days until Friday? Is being euphoric and mindless the sole raison d’etre of your average thinking college student?

There was a time when campuses were buzzing with activity because students were going to change the world from the ground up. Students were informed and angry, not ignorant and apathetic. There was a time when partying was a break from making progress in students’ own lives and in the world they inhabit. Now, the message on campuses across the country is marred by disinterest and hedonism.

Where have the activists gone? Why is it that colleges are so quiet Sunday through Thursday? Where are the din of intellectuals rising up to make the world a better place? I guess we have decided the system we live in is perfect; that, or we are all too hung over from our redundant celebration of celebrating to realize there are actual problems that college students the world over could be addressing.

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