Section: Opinion

Kenyon activists need to think long-term

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Kenyon students have taken action following the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, but it’s unlikely this spurt of activism will continue with fervor. 

Kenyon students, known for their outspoken liberal engagement with divisive political issues, have been grappling with Trump’s unprecedented and authoritarian executive orders since his inauguration. A myriad of concrete activist efforts have emerged from the student body alone, including petitions against Trump’s immigration bans and a trip to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. More than 150 Kenyon students marched in D.C., armed with handmade protest signs.

While these efforts during the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election seem promising, the Kenyon student body’s history of remaining politically active in the long haul is virtually nonexistent. Students often complain about an issue for a few days on social media and attend a minimal amount of protests and discussions, then abandon the cause altogether. This underzealous activism was visible in the response to Michael Hayes’ provocative 2016 blog post. Hayes gave convincing evidence that Kenyon’s Title IX investigative system failed to provide justice to his sister after her alleged sexual assault. At first, students reacted uproariously. Individuals and student groups organized discussions and wrote to College publications expressing their discontent. In response, the school launched an external audit of its compliance with Title IX. But by the time this audit was completed and a report was released, students no longer had much to say about the unfairness of Kenyon’s Title IX system. In the span of a few months, the vigorous responses dwindled to the point where the release of the audit’s findings garnered little attention from the student body. A few gripes about continued unfairness and a follow-up letter from Hayes are some of the only evidence of Title IX activism following the audit’s release.

Taking this unimpressive history into account, it is important for us to not yet pat ourselves on the back for a few weeks of activism. The bulk of Trump’s administrative decisions are, as of yet, unknowable and daunting. If we drop our activist efforts, it will have unshakable consequences for the Kenyon community and the future of our nation. On a smaller scale, we will we feed into our communal reputation as a group of socioeconomically privileged students who refuse to engage with issues that don’t directly relate to our personal well-being. We will also send a message to the broader population that we, as Trump’s opponents, will become complacent in the face of his bigoted orders. It’s important to remember that signing a petition and joining a march are only the first steps in an uphill battle that we cannot afford to lose.

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