Serious initiatives don't go on vacation

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • April 23, 2014

At issue: Commendable initiative launched this year

Our take: Summer vacation doesn't mean taking a break from what matters

In October, after three students filed a federal complaint accusing Emerson of mishandling their reports of sexual assault, 275 members of the college community gathered in a town hall meeting to discuss school policies on sexual assault. The college proudly distributed purple bracelets reading “Emerson Stands” for supporters to show solidarity.

Yet just four months later, when Emerson brought in four candidates to interview to be our new sexual assault response and prevention advocate—a position created in response to the complaint—zero students showed up to two of the meetings. Emerson eventually hired Melanie Matson to fill the position, but there were far fewer social media posts about it. Emerson’s website had no story about it. And the Emerson Stands bracelets are nowhere to be seen.

It’s a common theme among social or political issues on campus: A rallying cry can be heard when the story is in the eye of the mainstream media (remember KONY?), but once the stories fade, so does student interest. It was easy when Huffington Post stories were popping up for students to show—or feign—interest in an admirable cause. But sans the headlines—without a common public item to stand behind—the passion and effort is gone.

It seems that every time the summer months roll around, students separate themselves from the initiatives they were actively engaged in during the school year and instead plan to pick up where they left off come fall. But social justice campaigns and other big plans can’t sustain impact if abandoned. In the four months when students get summer jobs or internships, legislation that was close to being passed, unions that were close to formation, and policies that were nearing implementation wind up losing steam and falling short of success. If the student body cares about the issues they sacrifice so much time over during the school year, they need to understand that the passion cannot wane. Hunger, segregation, discrimination, sexism, and other problems do not stop just because it’s summer. Neither should we. 

Students and administrators have launched other admirable measures this school year, like spreading planters across Emerson’s buildings and, just days ago, helping food service workers unionize. But it’s precisely because these initiatives are so important that the stakes for following through are so high. The real work comes not with the launch of a good idea, but in the weeks and months after. For potted plants, the costs of failing may only be wilted leaves, but for sexual assault policy reform and a nascent labor union, foundering can have serious consequences.

So whether you are completing your freshman year or just picked up your cap and gown, remember that the issues you once felt so passionately about still exist and deserve to be championed outside of the Emerson’s walls.