Marcellus Shale discussion highlights student apathy

By Lizzie Kirshenbaum

Contributing Writer

As someone who thinks of the YouTube video “Marcel the Shell” when asked about her opinions on the mining of Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, I felt slightly out of place attending the University’s forum on the topic.

This panel discussion between Pennsylvania State Senator Gene Yaw and Pennsylvania House Representative Rick Mirabito ultimately turned out to be a verbally uncontainable debate extending into the members of the audience.

Sitting in the audience with only a handful of other students there for the same purpose as myself–extra credit–I started to wonder why a top-tier liberal arts university could not produce a greater turnout for such an important political event.

Marcellus Shale is a natural gas that could radically change Pennsylvania’s energy development, and yet at a university whose first-year class is composed of 20% Pennsylvanian residents, only about a dozen students were in attendance of this forum.

Despite the lack of student representation, the audience was fairly full but with people of a slightly grayer hair color than the average University student. These local residents attending the forum brought their notepads and pens but unlike myself, without intentions of writing a summary for their professor; rather, they were there listening intently, formulating questions for the speakers.

As Mirabito spoke, an overwhelming amount of support could be drawn from the audience, but when it came time for Republican Senator Yaw to take the podium, several derogatory comments were made before he could even finish formulating his opening statement. In fact, Senator Yaw threatened to walk out several times in response to the slurs.

Prior to this night I knew that Marcellus Shale was a valuable commodity in Pennsylvania; what I learned from this forum was that Marcellus Shale is an extremely touchy subject for Pennsylvanian residents and that very few of these residents understood the concept of keeping their questions “brief.” I walked into the forum expecting to be staring at the clock for the majority of it but found myself engrossed in the fervor of the attendees.

“I hope you don’t consider yourself pro-life,” muttered a nervous man through the microphone to Senator Yaw, “because of the miscarriages you are going to cause in this state.”

This man was only one of the initial seven who immediately formed a line when the mediator announced questions would now be taken. As I listened to these people ask their intricate questions and make their odious comments I instantly compared it to question-and-answer portion of the Paul Rusesabagina lecture.

Two weeks ago, Rwandan humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina spoke in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts and when he prompted the students to ask questions, one would have thought he had invited them to leave.

Where have the outspoken college students gone? We wear our bracelets that say “Save Darfur” and participate in walks to raise money for cancer, but where is our passion? It seems as though we’ve forgotten who the hippies were and only remember them as inspiration for Halloween costumes.

They staged protests, they vocalized their beliefs, they were a community of activists. Perhaps this passion has dwindled due to the overwhelming fascination our generation has with technology.

Everyday I pass the newsstands located in the Elaine Langone Center and the Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library and see free copies of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal remain perfectly in their stacks. The number of people attending college has risen extraordinarily seen the 1960s, and yet it appears as though those in attendance lack the intellectual interest of those before them to be active or even informed concerning current events.

But perhaps I am wrong in identifying this generation gap; after all, the outspoken woman sitting in front of me at the forum was blatantly texting on her iPhone throughout the evening.

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