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Princeton student demands more student activism at Princeton

Some ‘activists’ have to be bribed with free pizza to show up

A student activist on Princeton’s campus is lamenting the fact that not enough students are activists there, calling upon the campus’s apolitical student body to start getting involved in protests and petitions.

“I expected [Princeton’s] widespread academic interest in political science and public policy to extend into extracurricular life, manifesting itself in anything from a robust student government to animated grassroots campaigns for change. How wrong I was,” writes Claire Wayner in The Daily Princetonian.

“During my first months at Princeton, I discovered that on a campus renowned for its political education, politics appears to stop at the classroom door, reflecting a deeply inbred refusal among Princetonians to disrupt the status quo. This makes it difficult for those of us who are activists to recruit and motivate the general student body,” she continues.

Noting that the campus’s political protests are often sparsely attended (even after students are bribed with free food and “boba tea” to participate) while the more socially oriented events are well-frequented, Wayner implores Princeton’s would-be activists to consider the benefits of activism:

It’s not that activism is less “fun,” creative, or even prestigious than more traditional student clubs or activities. This past spring, I directed a campaign under the Princeton Student Climate Initiative to pass a student referendum calling on the University to take stronger action against climate change. A referendum is a statement to the Princeton administration that undergraduates vote upon in elections hosted by our Undergraduate Student Government (USG) in December and April each year. During the week of campaigning leading up to the election (and the several months beforehand, spent planning our campaign and writing our referendum), I made some of my closest friends from all of my first year, especially during the hours we spent tabling in Frist Campus Center.

In the end, however, we weren’t worried about the referendum not passing with the majority vote it required — we were worried about the 33 percent mandatory minimum turnout rate. We ended up getting 42 percent of campus to vote, which was unexpectedly high. Yet, it’s frustrating that, at a university which hosts one of the nation’s premier schools for public policy, we struggle to get even half of our students to vote in campus elections. And while campus politics may seem inconsequential, we don’t fare much better in national elections; the Princeton Vote 100 campaign this past fall, which called on undergraduates to vote in the midterm elections, only mobilized 30 percent of students to sign the pledge to vote, despite the fact that the campaign was sponsored and heavily promoted by the University’s Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students.

Reflecting on the lack of activism at the school, Wayner claims it “stems not only from student disinterest, but also from an administration which discourages direct action on campus.”

Read the op-ed here.

MORE: Activists protest George Will’s commencement address at Princeton

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