Viewpoint: It wouldn’t hurt to have some political activism on campus

By Amy Heard
Copy Editor

Baylor has provided me with many opportunities, and I will be forever grateful. There has been one thing missing from my undergraduate education, however: any form of debate or political consciousness on campus.

Call me crazy, but I would have loved to see an Occupy Fountain Mall or some protesters getting worked up over the contraception debate.

When I left for college, my parents warned me that everyone in college becomes a Democrat until he or she start making his or her own money, but from what I can tell, most of the students at Baylor don’t seem to care.

Students at UC Davis were pepper sprayed following political activism. Obviously pepper spray is never a desirable outcome, but I can’t think of a single instance where an opinion was visible at Baylor, much less threatening to authority. I’m not even asking that these demonstrations or protests or involvement align with my own political ideology.

I recently applied for a national scholarship that involved a day of interviews in which the 12 or so applicants, all vying for one slot, spent the day in a small room together. For the scholarship, each applicant had written a policy proposal on an issue of their choice, and conversation naturally turned toward discussion of the various policies.

I hate to say it, but my time at Baylor had in no way prepared me for the sustained, intellectual debate some of the applicants had over their issues. Two men had written policies about education, and they had a discussion ranging from testing methods to school funding. Each could cite scholars and studies and had incredibly well-backed positions that the other respected but disagreed with. At no point did the discussion devolve to name-calling or circular reasoning.

In my experience, attempting to initiate a political discussion at Baylor either ends in frustration or anger. Too often, opinions are backed by little more than misplaced facts.

To accept blame where it is due, I have been guilty of retreating from conversations in anger. I once had a friend tell me that he got really upset when families used their food stamps at McDonald’s. That might be a valid complaint, if people could actually use food stamps at McDonald’s.

College is supposed to be an opportunity for expanding one’s outlook on life. I wholeheartedly support everyone’s right to his or her own opinion, but that opinion should be based on a person’s own thoughts and understandings of an issue.

By thoughts and understanding, I don’t mean the thoughts and understanding of your parents. If you hold the exact same political beliefs on every point as your parents, you probably haven’t really thought about a lot of it. Most of us have been disagreeing with our parents on everything from curfew to outfit choice since middle school. It seems strange to have wholehearted agreement on things much more important.

To clarify, I am not advocating disagreeing with your parents simply to disagree. I am, however, strongly suggesting the evaluation of all opinions and biases. You might agree with your parents on many, maybe even most, things, but come to those ideas on your own — you’ll be in a better position to defend them later.

There are a lot of issues on which I am woefully ignorant, but there are quite a few I care about. Sometimes I wonder what effect an active political presence on campus would have had on my understanding of politics. Interacting with people who have strong, supported opinions has an interesting way of challenging what one believes.

Perhaps the proper response when one feels there isn’t enough political activism is to start it yourself, but with five weeks until I graduate, I’m out of time.

I hope someday when I return to Waco, ambitious Baylor students will have stepped up and made Baylor a place where discussion is fostered and conceptions are challenged.

Amy Heard is a senior English major from San Antonio and is a Lariat copy editor.