Jerk Call to Action: Student Revolutionaries
This past weekend, Syracuse’s International Film Fest gave a compelling reminder that students can be powerful agents of change, and that we are just young, stupid, and strong-willed enough to say and do things without fear. The Film Fest was a five-day event featuring movies from around the world, including Listopad by Gary Griffin, Josef Lustig and Jan Tesitel—a fictional telling of the real events during the Velvet Revolution. The movie shows the Czechoslovakian Revolution against the Communists in 1989 through the lens of students. So let’s face it, 2016 sucks, but don’t ever think because of our age or status that we can’t make a change.
The characters of Listopad, despite a situation different than most of the causes we might protest, could teach you a thing or two about taking a stand. These students in the 1980s in Prague had little power—their expression was censored, the police thrived off of messing with them, and the older generations didn’t have the energy or the spirit to fight the big-bad communists after 40 long years of coping with the Party. In the beginning, these students had little influence over anyone but each other, but their sheer enthusiasm, passion, and persistence motivated others to stand with them. They also used the one thing they were banned from doing: making art. This revolution proved that art, music, and literature, are powerful tools of self-expression that can inspire and intimidate.
University students around the country are trying to be a catalyst of social and political change. We see a slew of protests for Black Lives Matter, a range of activism regarding sexual assault, endless anti-Trump speeches, and recent interest in more pin-pointed issues such as the North Dakota Pipeline. Here at Syracuse there are no exceptions. Students have performed die-ins for issues dealing with race relations, chalked the quad with messages about consent, and publicly demanded that the University be more honest and open with their plans (ehem-Promenade).
Thankfully, we live in a land of democracy where we won’t be harshly punished for an offensive doodle or a (peaceful) protest, but often people don’t realize how big of an impact their voice could have. Why do students make such great activists? Because we have little to lose and a lot to gain. We don’t have serious jobs or commitments, and we’re still young enough to have the passion. It’s a low-risk, high-reward scenario. While we have a mere two decades behind us, we still have 80 years ahead of us, and we care more about the quality and integrity of our and our peers’ futures. The generations above us might be comfortable with how society functions, but we see the need for change. As students we are taught to be curious, question everything, and be disruptive. Not to mention that we are good at it. Our ability to utilize technology to amplify our voices and organize around a common cause has allowed us to insert ourselves right in the middle of national conversations.
It’s not up for debate that it is important for students to use their voices, paint brushes and general risk-taking mentality to create change. It’s easy to feel like the steps we’re taking aren’t making a difference, or that the topic may be too big to tackle, but don’t forget that students DO win. Think back to 2014 when THE General Body sat in Crouse Hinds for 18 full days with 45 pages of grievances toward the University highlighting failures for inclusion and diversity, concerns about mental health aid, and the lack of transparency with administration. The school has made changes, and is still striving to make changes, that address these concerns. Let’s make sure that growth is a constant and that we, the students, continue to fight for what we believe in.