Humanities Hot Topic: Political activism on campus

Maddie Margioni, Contributing Writer

Pull-out quote: “The hot topics do a good job at creating an opportunity for students to meet new people who are willing to talk about important topics, like-minded or not, which is important on a campus like Bucknell because sometimes we lack in political discussions.” – Matilda Melkonian ’22

 

The weekly Humanities Hot Topic discussions continued on Feb. 15 with a session dedicated to political activism on campus. Students and faculty attended, covering topics such as segregation within the student body, structures for activism on campus, and food insecurity.

 

The opening question asked about segregation within the student body, both within campus clubs and the social habits of University students. Various forms of segregation can be found on campus, including racial, gender-based, and socio-economic separation, according to student attendees.

 

One attendee, Matilda Melkonian ’22, found that “the hot topics do a good job at creating an opportunity for students to meet new people who are willing to talk about important topics, like-minded or not, which is important on a campus like Bucknell because sometimes we lack in political discussions.”

 

Another topic of conversation was the development of B.A.D. (Bucknell Alternative Delegation) as a space for students to come together and talk about activism on campus. B.A.D. began after U.S. President Donald Trump was elected as president, when “everyone was frustrated on campus,” Anushikha Sharma ’19 said. A walkout was subsequently orchestrated, and after that, signatures circulated for a letter filled with demands from the student organization.

 

These demands included bringing a full-time Muslim chaplain to the University and creating an alternative party space to the largely unmonitored fraternities on campus. This new space would be focused on enhancing gender equality and creating a safer and more accepting atmosphere for students on campus.

 

Sharma was one of the leaders of this effort in 2017, and she is still vocal on campus about activism on behalf of minority groups and other students who at times feel separated from their peers at the University. “The topic is relevant and refreshing and heavily seeped into my own Bucknell experience. It would be cool to learn more about other people with similar or varying experiences of student activism,” Sharma said.

 

“I think the conversation was interesting but could have dug deeper,” Sharma said following the Hot Topic discussion. “I would like to have seen more reflection on student-professor power dynamics and a feminist analysis of the division of labor in campus activist groups. With professors leading initiatives under the umbrella of ‘student activism,’ there is room for indoctrination and a lack of acknowledgment of gendered labor. I would also like to have seen more people at the event.”

 

Other topics of conversation that were touched upon included the challenges of starting clubs with aims of activism on campus, as well as food insecurity. Sharma brought up her own experience with attempting to bring food insecurity to the forefront of thoughtful discussion on campus, stating that there is a “lack of empathy” and no real conversation happening about the issue.

 

“I’m pleased that the Humanities Center is hosting events that bring students together to discuss issues of great importance, both locally and globally. There’s a great yearning to do something about the campus climate, about the environment, about forms of segregation and alienation on campus,” Professor of English Michael Drexler said at the end of the Hot Topic session. “And it is inspiring to see juniors and seniors willing to mentor newer students and help them find a means to express themselves and become activists for change. Kudos to Professors [Erica] Delsandro, [Mehmet] Dosemeci, and [Adam] Burgos for providing guidance (and pizza).”

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