What was the message of this week’s Black Student Alliance’s (BSA) Conscious Circle? There’s more to your education than just books and studying. This is your time to grab the reigns of all the issues that concern you as a college student, as an African American, Muslim, Catholic, American young adult.
Michigan State alumnus Darrius Peyton tells us that the greatest part of our education is activism. Peyton claims activism was the greatest thing he took away from college; it certainly was not his early on study skills, he pointed out, and who better to know than someone who was involved in the study-In during the eighties? The students that participated in the study-in created a list of demands the administration was not responding to, and so devised a way to make them unavoidable—by occupying the Hannah Administration Building. If the university cannot make money, claims Peyton, then they are going to do something about what is preventing that. With about 400 people in attendance, it is one MSU’s most memorable and most recent acts of college-student activism. The study-in lasted eight days with constant threats of police interference and a negative public perception; but the students stuck to their guns. Only some of the demands were met. The study-in resulted in the current programs we have today, like the African-American studies program, as well as the hiring of more black faculty. It wasn’t about getting every single thing on the list that matters. This was a stepping-stone for getting those things in the future, a step toward a better outlook for the people involved, and an opportunity to build skills that aren’t taught in the classroom, like leadership, teamwork, and organization. That is what you can take away from student activism. “No one tactic will be the end all,” said Peyton. But it is clear that you can take so much more away from it than reaching a goal right away.
So how do we accomplish these kinds of things in our generation? We seem to be lethargic and unwilling to get up and really find a cause to rally for, but Peyton claims this is not so. You have to acknowledge the successes you’ve had, be innovative and think of new ways to act, have a plan, a vision, and then equip the people involved in your cause with whatever weapons they need. Knowledge and hope are just the beginning; you then need to lead them into your vision.
When college is finished? Take what you’ve learned with you. Do not leave it in the back of your mind, struggling to be brought up years and years later when your college days are long gone, like so much of the other things we might learn. Take what activism has given you, keep it, use it, and thrive with it.
By Rachel Prettenhofer