People always talk about the college bubble. We all know it’s there, but does anybody ever stop to wonder whether it’s a real problem? Students can ignore the world around them within our meal plan, dorm room and lecture hall lives. Just like our schools advertised when we toured, everything we need is right on campus.
Does this convenience confine our responsibilities to our enclosed communities? Or is this of-legal-voting-age population still responsible for contributing directly to larger society?
I often find myself completely wrapped up in my life at school, planning my week to the hour to fit everything into my schedule. Navigating practices, rehearsals, interviews, a part-time job, schoolwork and club meetings engulfs you in the college bubble. Does that excuse my failure to pick up the free copy of the New York Times that sits outside the dining hall every morning? Can I say that, for now, I will enrich myself in preparation for entering the real world, and then worry about getting involved? Or is now as important as ever to flex my citizenship?
From whatever angle you take, college is a practice round at real life.
Plenty of students view their campus as a nationality of sorts. They are involved, spirited and committed to making their community a better place. You don’t need to be class president to do that, just like you don’t need to work for the government to be a contributing citizen. But, I do believe that if you identify as a part of a community, you have a responsibility to be informed and to make your opinions heard in whatever capacity feels right to you.
For me, one of the biggest problems in society isn’t that people debate their different beliefs, but that not enough people join the conversation. Letting a Student Government Association election pass by without knowing the difference between the candidates should not be normal, especially if you have any frustrations about the college. When you wish something was different, big or small, it’s important to recognize that as a member of a community. You have a voice to change it. Similarly, when the campus is divided over an issue, it should not be acceptable to have no opinion. Being actively neutral is different than being passively complacent. Choosing not to engage makes you complicit with whatever standard is in place.
A college campus is an inherently privileged place. It is our responsibility to set the precedent for civic engagement on a national scale. If we aren’t involved in college, what are the chances we will be involved in life? Everybody knows that it’s the responsibility of every citizen to vote. That idea should be more internalized in a variety of settings.
The one question I have on this issue is whether or not college kids should be expected to be citizens of their campuses and the larger community at the same time. Historically, colleges have been breeding grounds for political protests and the epitome of an active community. I’m not sure that holds true today, especially since so many more people attend college now. That is not to say that segments of college communities are not well informed. But there is a wide spectrum of interest.
I would argue that it is the responsibility of those who are invested to encourage others softly to participate without imposing their own views. It is the responsibility of all college students to be aware of the world around them. That way, they can spend their time in the college bubble figuring out where they stand on the issues that matter to them.