Social activism must drive indifference from campus community
Journalism is born on caring. Sure, narcissism and attention-seeking play their role, from the sensationalist headlines that regularly hit newsstands to our current epidemic of bait-and-click pseudo-news sources. There’s probably a bit of greed thrown in the mix as well, but let’s be honest — whoever thinks there’s money in the newspaper business is kidding themselves.
By and large, though, journalism is the product of pure, unadulterated caring. If apathy vanquished empathy once and for all in a battle of the sensibilities, well, then journalism as we know it would cease to exist.
The Tartan, like any newspaper, is a vehicle for caring. What does the paper care about? The obvious — and true — answer is Carnegie Mellon and the well-being of its students. Beyond that, the paper cares about producing unbiased content, keeping the student body informed, and encouraging important dialogues and engagement on campus.
Journalism, in this respect, is so terribly important, not only because it is the result of caring, but because it facilitates it.
Let’s face it. Carnegie Mellon is not a campus particularly charged with political zeal. The university is a research institution known for excelling in everything science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Consequently, it attracts many practical-minded and levelheaded students with their eyes not only on technical innovation, but also largely on pretty diplomas or a prettier six-figure salary. There’s nothing wrong with such goals, of course, but they can contribute to one rather insidious side effect: indifference.
Walk past the Cut, and you’re more likely to see robots being built than a rally being staged. Aspiring scientists easily outnumber aspiring activists. Ask your average student, and they are more likely to know three coding languages than the latest happenings in Russia or Israel. At the upcoming Activities Fair, expect to see more than a dozen engineering and robotics organizations before you come across our one-of-each organizations for environmentalism, feminism, and LGBTQ issues. At Carnegie Mellon, the STEM, and even social, clubs thrive. The sizable number of community service clubs is adequate, and sports certainly exist with members who participate in clubs and on competitive teams with enthusiasm.
However, the handful of organizations dedicated to the discussion of ideas and to the implementation of large-scale, positive social change — to actively addressing issues outside the world of Carnegie Mellon and our personal aspirations — are often understaffed and underappreciated.
Technology and science are harbingers of the future, and students at this university make discoveries and build tools to better humanity every day. Every little bit of practical change brought about by community service is valuable. Pragmatism and calm in the face of controversy are positive traits not to be scoffed at.
However, there is still something to be said for advocating — wholeheartedly and unashamedly — for the various national and global social issues that affect the world outside of Carnegie Mellon. This advocacy must come in the form of organized, highly visible groups of campus members.
They call millennials the “me” generation. They call us entitled and dependent and apathetic. Why not prove them wrong?
Make Carnegie Mellon as much a bed for social change as it already is for technological innovation.