Wednesday, April 11 was marked by a brisk breeze-cold but not enough to keep QU students indoors. Students outside of Irma and Dana could be seen throwing a football and enjoying the moderate weather while others walking to class had finally shed their winter clothing and wore short sleeve shirts and flip-flops. While most students went about their usual daily routine, a handful of others decided that April 11 was an opportune moment to hold a rally.
Members of QUSTAND spent the afternoon demonstrating against the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. They spent their time on the quad holding signs of protest and futilely trying to get the attention of their classmates who strolled by without even glancing at the concerned activists. From a distance the protest was a sad sight. A half dozen or so people wearing their green STAND t-shirts standing around quietly as hundreds of students walked to the student center, the library and the business school.
Unaffected by the disinterest of their peers on that day, the same small group of concerned individuals met again at the quad on Friday, this time with the hopes of tackling an issue which potentially could have sparked a greater interest among the student population- the war in Iraq. Even though the topic had changed to something which is felt more passionately throughout the general public in the United States, the protesters were met with the same results. Dispassionate student after dispassionate student walked past without engaging the group in a discussion or even joining their ranks.
The interest shown by these few involved students seems to be a rarity on this particular campus. The apathetic nature of our campus seems to relegate timely political issues as something only worth dealing with in the classroom if at all. The student body at the present time is unable to find meaning in any issue that does not deal directly with their immediate lives. While this is the reality of our school, the students should not be blamed. Our general apathy is symptomatic of the nature of the global problems occurring right now. Unlike previous generations of students who were the heart of political protests, there is a great distance between world issues and our immediate lives. It is a challenge for young people, living away from home, bogged down with course work, to find any connection to Darfur or Iraq. Students from our campus are not being pulled out of school and put in a uniform. The war in Iraq is being fought by volunteers. With this in mind, no matter how much the situation decays and America’s global image declines, students are able to live their lives with no fear that they could become a part of the war.
The inherent distance to the issues being protested on our campus provides some rationale to why the general student population feels no need to stand on the quad and express their feelings. But this does not provide an excuse for the lack of concern towards pressing issues. Interest in political matters does not have to be narrowly defined as holding a sign in the middle of a college campus. Reading a newspaper to stay informed, reading a book to understand some of the underlying history, or even engaging in a discussion with friends is all it takes to become involved in political matters. These means are not as visual as a protest but they are in no way inferior. Any effort to get to understand the facts and take a position is enough to reverse the state of apathy which has taken over our campus.
Those few protesters who found some sense of connection to the issues across the globe took it upon themselves to act. Even if their numbers do not grow as they continue to protest throughout the remainder of the semester, it should not be taken as a symptom of continued apathy. The act of protesting does not appeal to many people who may hold similar feelings. Generic posters and chants that rhyme do not appeal to the vast majority of politically involved people. Protesting can be the least eloquent way of expression – besides the general statement, not much else can be voiced. Protests are not a forum for debate, meaning that all the views and fine points of the matter are never presented. Because of these drawbacks, many people are actually against protesting. But on a campus which is apathetic, those who protest are making the first step towards progress, a step that will hopefully draw others to become more involved in whatever way they choose.