This semester has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Much has happened in the nation and the world, and much has happened on the campuses of our five undergraduate colleges. Sexual assault became a hotly debated topic at Pomona College early in the semester with students protesting the administration's lack of support for survivors. Mental health continues to be a challenging subject, as wait time at Monsour peaked at five weeks in late October. Debates over political correctness also came to the center of attention with the Mudd Goes Madd party and the Pitzer College Student Senate denying approval to the Yachting Club.
Then, perhaps most notably, incidents at Claremont McKenna College brought the issues of racism on college campuses to the forefront, resulting in protests and marches by 5C students of color and allies, many of whom gave their respective college adminsitrations a list of demands to better support students of color.
However, as much as we've seen these topics rapidly become the center of heated debates and the drivers of multiple student movements, we have witnessed how quickly attention and energy surrounding these issues can die down in years past.
So then, it becomes difficult to ignore the question lingering in the background: Is real institutional change possible in a place we call home for four years—a period of time that, in the greater context of life and history, seems extremely insignificant? Will the movements, the debates, the ideas, actually end up anywhere? WIll they yield any meaningful changes after we're gone and our four years are over?
Many seem to tell us that it is not possible. Regarding the demands of students of color in recent months, some critics say that the real world isn't going to “coddle” students like college does. Regarding sexual assault, survivors' stories and actions are called into question daily. Most importantly, our own administrations often provide vague, unpromising, and formulaic responses to students' demand for change, the same contentious students that they figure will be gone soon, after which a new batch will replace them.
It is the unavoidable cycle of institutions in higher education.
We, as students, are often doubtful of the change we can enact during our short time here. Moreover, we are confused about how positive change has and can come about. Looking at movements of the past, we find solace and hope in that change has indeed been achieved and grown to fruition on college campuses. For example, resource centers have been vital for student organizing, both as a support system and as a rallying point. But the programs that support queer students, disabled students, and students of color only came about through student protests and demands. These kinds of centers existing at all demonstrate the power of student action.
So yes, four years are incredibly short, and yes, we are often disappointed and discouraged by the fact that perhaps our efforts will come to nothing in the end. But we are still making a difference. Our movements, albeit small in the grander scheme of things, are building on a rich past of student movements.