Graphic by Janey Woo
The recent political climate on campus is tense to say the least. In the past week, Heather Mac Donald came to speak about her concerns with the current state of free speech, among other topics. Her talk was greeted with applause by the crowd inside Bucknell Hall on Nov. 14, yet outside the event, a protest ensued. The gathering of students outside the venue opposed Mac Donald’s talk, with some protesters even arguing that the event should not have taken place at all. Although some may interpret the protest as having gone too far in its claims, one cannot deny that it was a good thing for the University community. By virtue of its very existence — regardless of whether or not it changed the dialogue — the protest served as a key sign that members of the University community are taking action about issues going on outside of the bubble. This is critical to the development of this school, and it helps show that students here are more than what some may want to portray us as. Even if you did not agree with what the protesters said; even if you thought they took it too far and were absolutely absurd, you cannot deny that there is an importance in the simple fact that the students gathered for a cause that they believed in.
Ever since I arrived on campus, I have heard about the “Bucknell Bubble.” It’s an abstract yet powerful thing. Even though you can’t feel it or hear it, it is there. Our isolation on this campus creates an environment which focuses around what occurs on campus rather than in the rest of the world. Students certainly learn about real world issues during their classes, yet these issues seemingly disappear once one walks out of the classroom to go to the next lesson. Faculty and administrators always talk about how we can collectively combat the effects of the bubble. Unfortunately, Lewisburg is no New York City. The quiet political environment of this small town in central Pennsylvania contributes to the isolation of the University. There are rarely any major protests on Market Street, and it is often hard to organize politically, regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum. Breaking the bubble is a challenge, but, as the protest last week illustrates, it is not impossible. The more students protest, the more they partake in the political system of this country. Ideas about free speech, the environment, immigration, as well as other issues will have lasting impacts on all of our lives whether you believe it or not. To argue otherwise is simply naive. Very few people in this school will go on to live in cloistered isolation after graduating. This means that if you plan on being a part of society, you will need to act politically in order to ensure your ideas are heard, regardless of whether you are a hardcore Socialist or a traditional conservative.
Some may argue that protest and an over-politicized campus will deter students from applying. I doubt that the University’s reputation will be tarnished by an increase in political activity.
While it is possible that some high school students will not want to apply to the University if they learn that this campus is politically active, this seems like a very static line of thinking to maintain. To that, I have to argue that the school should not cater to this group. University should not be a place where one retreats to the comfort of their personal beliefs and never challenges their assumptions. If the University wants its students to grow and become model citizens of the world, than political activity and protest are critical. We will all encounter people in this world who we will disagree with and never see eye to eye, but we will also have to live with these people in the same political system. They will vote just like you, and many will protest and take action about their beliefs. You will deal with these people, even though you may never meet them. To argue otherwise is, again, simply naive. Last week’s protest was controversial, yet when one expands the lens through which they view this protest, its positive nature shines forth.