Pomona students should embody a certain social awareness that inspires action. We bask in our great ranking as a liberal arts school (number four?!), and we enjoy access to innumerable campus resources. Even as first-year students, we are taught by our surrounding peers, faculty, and staff to care deeply about the issues that negatively impact the livelihood of others. My concerns for our student body don’t stem from our ignorance or even our insensitivity. In fact, I think students are often hypersensitive to specific problems and generally maintain the healthy ability to speak openly about them.
Rather, I’m baffled by our inability to act in ways that actually effect change on campus. Walker Wall paintings, anonymous essays, or TSL articles about snapping (at least in the minds of some students) are certainly ways to draw attention, but they are quite ineffective in terms of tangibly improving community life. An outside eye would say that our student body cares, but too often we don’t care enough to take responsibility into our own hands. Whose job is it to make sure that we attain the leadership skills necessary for making a difference? The CDO? The Draper Center? Our teachers and advisors? I would argue that these are student resources that can aid a potential leader in pursuit of progress, but the institution which is ultimately accountable must be the individual student. Organizations—ASPC-funded clubs, campus fraternities, and even unofficial discussion forums—can be used as a means for action, but mostly because gathering like-minded students can shed more light on possible improvements. It only takes one of those motivated students to step up and institute changes by addressing the Senate, faculty, and administration.
I can’t say that apathy is eating away at the Pomona College student body, but I can say that we are a lazy campus. Everyone waits for someone else to do the work. It’s hard to find a student on campus who doesn’t carry a banner rightly proclaiming some injustice within or outside of our community, but few leaders organize in a way that aids actual implementation of their ideas. Organization, motivation, and the art of compromise are all vitally-important maneuvers when trying to pioneer major changes that will affect future Pomona community members, but many of our student movements fall short on these fronts.
By virtue of the nature of the admissions process, every Pomona student is capable of becoming a leader. Students who enroll at this college are expected to reach their highest level of scholarship while simultaneously assuming leadership roles as responsible, considerate, and contributing members of society. In order to indelibly mark this community, leaders on this campus must be approachable and persistent in their demands for change on campus. Aside from crucial campus community involvement, leaders need to speak the language of the students, faculty, staff, and administration. Pomona students who truly have the ability to effect change possess a certain personal drive, and it’s instantly recognizable.
This is a plea from me personally to you, the reader, to avoid the evident spiral of our unresponsive student body by collaborating with those people whom you know possess the fire to effect change. Too few of us passively wait for progress without turning to leaders who tirelessly cry out for student input. ASPC just celebrated a voter turnout of 781 students, the highest number the Senate has seen in years. How is that worthy of celebration? Barely half of our 1,560 students cared enough to cast a vote? If we truly want to call ourselves a progressive and politically-active campus, those numbers are worse than pathetic. They are representative of voter turnout in our national elections, while Pomona should represent the top ten percent of the nation’s educated youth. There is an obvious disconnect.
I implore you then to talk to students who have created reliable relationships with the administration if you honestly have ideas for campus improvement. People who know the administration and have earned its trust can move our community in the direction that students want. If the administration respects these student leaders, we as a student body stand a better chance of making campus-wide changes for the better. If you are one of these leaders, then consider this a call to action. Seek out the opinions of others. Ally yourself with other student leaders on campus. Form student movements. E-mail and call administrators if you truly want to initiate discussion.
At the end of the day, even though this campus may be morphing into a business run by the administration, students still have a say because that business continues to revolve around us. You simply must speak to the right people and always remember that actions speak far louder than words.