OPINION: Enough with ‘raising awareness’. Protest instead.

CMU students protest sexual assault policies on Oct. 28 2014. Left, Kai Niezgoda, center Hannah Mollett, right Marie Reimers.
CMU students protest sexual assault policies on Oct. 28 2014. (Photo by Arielle Hines)

By Arielle Hines

College campuses can be the launch pad for social change. But the catalysts for change will not be events that “raise awareness.”

Students at Central Michigan University have no shortage of opportunities to help “raise awareness” for social issues. If, for instance, you search the term “raise awareness” on Central Michigan Life‘s search bar, many stories on these events turn up, including several in just the 30 days.

However, I searched the term “protest” on Central Michigan Life’s website, and I could only find four protests that CMU students participated in during the entire academic year.

I don’t have a problem with organizations hosting these events or student media covering them. But I do think we should take a step back and think about why these groups are hosting these events.

The college students that participated in the Civil Rights Movement or protested the Vietnam War didn’t plan panels. They took action.

I know the argument is that people must be educated to know there is a problem. That’s a valid point to an extent, but the problem that most people never take the next step.

For true societal change to occur, we need to go beyond “raising awareness.”

The organizations that plan the events mean well. But more often than not, people attend these events and think that they are helping because they attended.

But hosting or attending an event doesn’t equate to change. Just knowing a problem exist doesn’t necessarily fix it.

I think the hope is that after the event people will be inspired to create change, but I am not sure that message gets across.

I am not suggesting that we end these events altogether, but students should feel empowered to demand change and have the tenacity to see it through.

Some organizations have done gone beyond raising awareness, but more students need to do more to support these movements.

For example, the Students Advocating for Gender Equality hosted a protest last semester that called for the Student Code of Conduct to change the minimum punishment for sexual assault to be expulsion.

While an online petition received more than 8,000 signatures, only 30 students actually attended the demonstration.

It’s not that this generation doesn’t care. It’s that we have gotten used to simply voicing our support and doing little else.

This Wednesday, SAGE is hosting a protest because they disagree with the university allowing Pradeep Gujjula, a 24-year-old graduate student that has been arrested for allegedly inappropriately touching a faculty member’s breast, to be allowed to finish his semester.

I’m not saying I agree or disagree with the message of the protest. However, I do encourage anyone who does agree with the message to join them.

And if you don’t agree with this specific protest, figure out what you do want to change and create a plan of action. Don’t simply host a well-meaning event.

If you are serious about change, you must do more. If you are not serious about change, that’s OK, but be honest with yourself.

Be informed, protest, start a movement if you want change, but please stop simply ‘raising awareness.’

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