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On April 23, 1968, the students and faculty of Columbia University united in a protest that stunned the nation. Speaking out against both a construction project seen as harmful to the nearby Harlem community and the university’s recent contributions to weapons research for the Vietnam War, they swarmed the campus, assumed control of the administrative building and took acting dean Henry Coleman as hostage.
The protests and occupation lasted for a week, ending only when New York police moved in to clear them out. There were 712 arrests and more than 100 injuries. Even after the events were brought to a halt, the students called a strike that would shut the campus down for the rest of the semester.
The events at Columbia are just one example of the many and continuing ways America’s universities can — and do — prove themselves as voices deserving to be heard. Even the most youthful, idealistic demands can be answered, if they’re given by thousands of young idealists. So with its 35,000 brilliant minds and location in a state in the national spotlight with many different social and political issues, CU-Boulder sets itself up to be anything but the resounding disappointment it actually is.
Maybe it’s the lush mountain views or the great skiing down the road; maybe it’s only an unfortunate matter of happenstance. Whatever “it” is, it’s turned our student body into a sprawling incarnation of apathy, laxity and ineffectuality. I’m tired of begging my peers to vote in life-altering elections. I’m tired of the resigned shrugs that follow yet another email alerting us to a nearby incident of sexual assault. I’m tired of calling myself part of a community that can only gather itself as a united voice when a small green plant is the topic of interest.
We stand a mile above the sea. We climb mountains and we touch the stars. Where is it written that we can’t also fight for what affects us at ground level?
This country has changed drastically in the 46 years since the Columbia protests. There is no cause for revolution today, no reason to storm President Benson’s office and insist he sever all connection to a corrupted war. But I don’t feel confident that, if we found ourselves in troubled times again, we would be willing or able to rise to the occasion.
This is why I don’t so much invite as implore you, Buffs, to contribute your voices this semester, whether that be to this publication or straight to the administration’s inbox. The CUI’s opinion section will be doing our best to start conversations, debates and maybe even fires in the hopes that you will join us. Take your ideas and complaints beyond Facebook or comment threads. Prove to those you would contest that you have a voice worthy of their attention and respect. Prove to yourself that you have a voice in the first place. Join the conversation. The world is ready to listen.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Lauren Thurman at Lauren.Thurman@Colorado.edu.