University sees decline in student protests, demonstrations on campus

Jess James and Jess James

When University President Ralph McDonald left office in 1961, it wasn’t because he retired; it was because of the power of activism and student protest.

Gary Hess, a retired University history professor, said since the 1960s the University has been known for its diverse views and liberal education. According to the University’s archives, in 1951 when President McDonald served on campus, student and faculty members openly protested against the growing rules and regulations instated by McDonald and the administration, eventually causing his resignation.

But today’s campus is different than it was 50 years ago.

Hess said a major factor in the decline of student activism is a change in the values instilled among a more critical thinking generation.

“When students enroll at the University, they are asked to take a survey with a variety of questions about college and what they expect to get out of their experience,” Hess said. “I’ve found, between the early 60s and mid-70s, students would tend to answer things like ‘to find the philosophy of life.’ Now responses tend to be career-based. Students have a different perception of college.”

Throughout the decade, protests about the Vietnam War fueled University protests and student activism sparked a revolution across the country. Now, though, many are left displeased with the lack of student activism on campus.

“This campus has less activism than any college I’ve ever seen,” said Mike Zickar, University professor and adviser of the College Democrats. “I remember during the Iraq war, myself and some other students were protesting and students walking by would come up to me and say ‘why are you protesting? It’s a waste of time.'”

The College Republicans were contacted for comment, but did not respond to phone calls.

Last fall, Zickar said the College Democrats marched in front of Rep. Bob Latta’s (R) office for the passing of the health care reform. A Tea Party protest also occurred in the Union oval April 17.

But while political and social protesting on campus has been on decline, students like senior Andy Ross feel issues concerning University financial matters seem to be more expressed.

“The little protest I have seen has been about things like the meal plan rollover being taken away, the Stroh Center and the tuition increase,” Ross said. “It seems like stuff on campus people are getting upset about are mainly only things that affect their money situation.”

Others, like junior Zac Falls, said the location of the University doesn’t expose students to enough national problems.

“Why would we make someone else’s issues our problem?” Falls said. “Students aren’t going to go out of their way to protest something that doesn’t concern them, especially because we’re in Bowling Green, Ohio, not Washington D.C.”

On the November 2010 ballot, students will be able to voice their opinions on a non-discrimination ordinance that would include sexual orientation and veteran status within housing and employment. Conservatives have instated a referendum to over-turn the city’s bill to make the ordinance illegal.

“If the referendum passes, it would still be legal in Bowling Green to discriminate on those categories,” Zickar said. “Students should show a concern for this issue, particularly because of rental concerns and sexual preference. The notion of being a college student is standing up for your beliefs regardless of repercussions.”