By Valerie Mikell
“The Trayvon Martin tragedy is a wake-up call for me, but it’s also a wake-up call for society,” Jamal Wyse says. The Adelphi junior and criminal justice major was a panelist at the event, Who Are We as a Nation? The Trayvon Martin Tragedy: A Town Hall Panel Discussion for Students, Faculty, Staff and Administrators.
Mr. Wyse addressed the standing-room-only crowd with honesty and candor. The town hall, which evoked critical discussion and a sharing of knowledge and personal stories, brought the Adelphi community together in the spirit of understanding. The event was one of many organized recently in response to the wake-up calls to which Mr. Wyse referred. In the age of an uncertain economy, the ever-present pain of prejudice in many forms and the struggles for peace around the world, Adelphi students and the University community are addressing the causes they care most about.
On Adelphi’s campus, the notion that the Net or Millennium generation is apathetic rings untrue. One-hundred-and-fifty participants attended the Take Back the Night: Speaker, Speak Out and March event to bring awareness and provide support to victims of sexual violence. The social media phenomenon known as KONY 2012, a viral campaign to put an end to warlord politics in Uganda, took root on Adelphi’s campus with a screening and open discussion. During the height of Occupy Wall Street, students and faculty gathered for Occupy Adelphi to discuss the direction of the economy and how it would directly affect their futures. The National Coming Out Day Vigil, the Know Your Rights Workshop, the Dream Act Workshop and so many more events prove that students know what’s going on in the world around them, or at the very least, they want to know.
Students today also understand that activism will provide opportunities to further their communication, organization and leadership skills. “I’ve learned as much as an activist as I have in the classroom,” says Christopher Ladka, a senior and political science major. An active participant in numerous campus events focused on issues of diversity and social change, Mr. Ladka says he has “found that once you find a cause you’re passionate about and connect with other people, you’ll find yourself part of the solution and not a subject of it.” Today, activism may begin with an eye-opening Facebook post or a tweet.
“Activism looks different now than in my parents’ generation,” says Anna Zinko, assistant director of the Center for Student Involvement (CSI). “Social networking and other forms of technology can really help to further the cause—you can really connect with people across the world.” But, Ms. Zinko admits that taking action is necessary to bring about real change. “The technology may make it easier to focus on issues on the other side of the globe rather than tackle those right outside your front door,” she says. “Using social media to bring attention to a cause you’re passionate about is great, but you have to realize that activism doesn’t end there.”
CSI is leading the charge in the creation of a think tank-like environment where students can brainstorm solutions to social justice issues. In Fall 2012, CSI will launch the Social Justice Training program, a semester-long leadership opportunity. “One-time programs around issues of diversity and social justice are important, but it’s also important to create a safe place for people to examine issues in an engaged, sustained environment,” Ms. Zinko says. “It’s a wonderful addition to the educational experience and helps students to think critically and engage in the world around them.”