Activism may be here to stay

Activism is back on campus. After a dry spell following the excitement and unheard of level of student involvement that came with the presidential debate and election, the second part of the Spring semester has pleasantly surprised us with unexpected activism from a plethora of student organizations.

Last year we got a taste of how effective activism could be with the affirmative action bake sale put on by Advocates for Conservative Thought (ACT), which triggered a passionate response from the student body. ACT’s efforts jump-started what would become a frenetic political season that saw the UC Breezeway always full of tables and political activities being held on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, the interest in making a difference faded quickly after the election was over. Politics are not a central part of our campus, as they are in other schools, perhaps because we are not clearly liberal or conservative and do not have a long-established political tradition. Yet, while political activities have died down this semester, some of the activist spirit has been carried over to different areas.

Interestingly, this activism present on campus during the latter part of the semester was not led by the Young Democrats or the College Republicans, the two organizations that drove a lot of the political efforts before the election. With the exception of some events held by the Council for Democracy, this time around it has been smaller more specialized groups leading the way.

Besides the birth of ACT last year, spectrUM, already a relatively activist organization itself, created OUTspoken, a branch dedicated to being more political. OUTspoken recently held its marriages on the UC Rock for the second year in a row.

Consistency year after year is key for these organizations, which tend to start off well and then fizzle. An example of a group that has stayed active is Students Together Ending Poverty (S.T.E.P.) which brings poverty issues to light with events like Hunger and Homelessness Week in February. In addition, Solutions, a student-run interdisciplinary forum, has proven to be a place for concerned students to voice their opinions and discuss issues such as poverty and the lack of a living wage in many parts of Miami.

This past year, a welcome addition has been Greenpeace UM, which was named the best new organization at the SOAR awards. Its banner-and-flyer campaign protesting Exxon Mobil has been particularly visible on campus recently.

Amnesty International was also restarted this year by a small but committed group of students after the organization had been abandoned for some time, and it has been bringing attention to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

A more recent addition has been Screaming Monkeys, a group that sprang from a three-day symposium on breaking Asian-American stereotypes last year and now hopes to become an activist organization for all cultural groups on campus.

Also recently approved as an organization is Students Toward a New Democracy (S.T.A.N.D.), a progressive, liberal activist group that aims to bring together existing organizations with mutual goals. The group’s first campaign-for fair-trade coffee-is already up and running.

Even a group that one would typically not associate with activism has been visible: The Pre-Veterinary Society has been supporting the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) with events like its “Two Days of Paws and Claws” held last week.

We hope these organizations build on their strong start to maintain the student body on its toes with thought-provoking campaigns and activities. We’d like to see the UC Rock-the school’s designated free-speech area-used more often by all these organizations. We also hope the organizations keep the bureaucracy and red tape to a minimum so that they actually remain active and their issues and events do not overlap. Membership for some of these groups is bound to coincide, and we challenge those members to remain passionate about their endeavors despite the obstacles they will undoubtedly face.

This editorial board has often complained about the level of apathy at the University. We’re glad to see that, as a student body, we’re starting to fight it.