Is MU politically engaged enough?

Maya Bauer, Contributing writer

My grandmother was about our age the year that Kent state students gathered on their campus to protest the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war.

This protest later involved about a thousand national guard members, tear gas and the deaths of four students.

Fifty years later, as a college senior, I often wonder if this era of public protest is behind us.

I especially wonder if Mercyhurst students here are politically active enough, or if they should have more opportunities for political engagement.

As an environmental science major, it is an exciting time to be alive because environmental problems are a hot topic around the world.

Campbell, a environmental science professor in the department, regularly encourages his students to participate in local activism events.

Campbell is a member of local activist group Hold Erie Coke Accountable (HECA) and is no stranger to the activist scene in Erie.

HECA has been a key part of protecting the Erie community by voicing the need to hold Erie Coke Corp. to the environmental standards that they all too often would neglect.

It should be added that the company, with a very long history of violating environmental regulations, finally closed their doors this winter.

With that being said, having Campbell as a role model throughout my four years has shown me how impactful the voices of the people can be.

Last semester, I wrote an article about the global climate strike in Erie, an event where residents gathered to voice the importance of climate change mitigation and to pressure local government to tighten environmental restrictions on local businesses.

It was held mid-day on Friday Sep 20, to support the Fridays for Future movement started by Greta Thunberg.

I skipped school in protest, along with friends and classmates Greta Taine and Max Kelly.

But to my surprise there was a really good turnout of Mercyhurst students there as well.

MU students from a number of athletic teams and various majors on campus came to protest in support of the movement, a hopeful indication that perhaps we do have a better interest in activism at Mercyhurst than I originally thought.

Although my passion is environmental activism, I had the absolute pleasure of going to my first Pride parade in Erie this summer.

Although most students had gone home for break, there were still several Mercyhurst students and staff that were present at the event.

It was an incredibly moving experience, and I felt real satisfaction to know that so many people from our school came out to support such an important day.

It was an amazing day centered around self, social acceptance, human rights, achievement and pride.

It was that day in particular that I began to realize that activism opportunities exist all around us here in Erie, it just takes some networking, research and a desire to stand up for things that are right and good.

I believe that there are many on campus who realize the value of being politically active.

I also know that there are several among the student body and staff here at Mercyhurst who participate in activism efforts in the Erie area.

We must not forget that activism can take many different forms.

These forms include voting, civil disobedience, beach clean ups, participation in the student government on campus, etc. are all ways that we can show our support of efforts that we care about.

No effort is too small, and although we all lead busy lives while we are here at school, we must not forget that the voices and actions of people like us are what bring real change in the world.

So, while I realize that our political activism scene here at Mercyhurst may look quite different from the stories of campus riots and protests that I grew up hearing about, I do think that there are many people here who realize the importance of acting on behalf of movements that are important to them, no matter how small the action.

If the story of Greta Thunberg has shown us anything, it is that sometimes it just takes a young person with a sign to move millions of others.