Student efforts disprove generational stereotypes

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • April 3, 2014

At issue: President M. Lee Pelton requires clothing provider to ensure worker safety.

Our take: Take P.R.I.D.E. in our student activities.

Last week, President M. Lee Pelton issued an ultimatum to JanSport, whose Emerson-branded clothes fill the shelves in our Barnes & Noble: Have your parent company agree to sign an agreement ensuring worker safety in Bangladesh by the end of the month, or the college will remove your apparel from the bookstore. This initiative was spearheaded not by the administration, but by the student group P.R.I.D.E., or Progressives and Radicals In Defense of Employees, and its member James O’Connell. And it is an example of real, concrete change that campus organizations can create.

It is the latest achievement in the commendable tradition of students and clubs bringing about real-life results from their advocacy. In February, Emerson seeded campus buildings with planter boxes, an indoor garden that within weeks began to sprout—the culmination of a proposal Earth Emerson had been promoting for years. In January, ASIA—Asian Students for Intercultural Awareness—raised money for Doctors without Borders in response to Typhoon Haiyan. And last April, Nicholas Reynolds and Chris Dobens started Boston Strong, the campaign that came to define the city’s response to the marathon bombings, and raised nearly $1 million to date for the One Fund, which provides payments to those affected by the tragedy.

The recent achievements on behalf of student organizations this past year stand as a symbol of how imperative student advocacy is for the college community and for the world at large. This is the time to seize our most grandiose activist ambitions and try to actualize them. With a pool of energetic, talented, and socially conscious peers to target, all student organizations should pursue plans with impact. These quintessential “big dreams” benefit not just participants in the plan but the entire community. The vigor of activism is infectious, and in a world that thrives on hyper connectivity, there is no better moment to seize the opportunity to make a mark.

Students at Emerson are well-versed in the skills needed to elicit change in many arenas, and also have the resources to do so. In a big city like Boston, with some organizations receiving allocated budgets from student government, we have the power to pursue these social issues. We’re bred to be media savvy and proficient in using social networks as a vehicle to spread our messages. P.R.I.D.E.’s persistence paid off in the form of Pelton making his own call to action, leading the charge among colleges and universities in the country in regard to this labor issue. 

Our generation has been labeled as complacent and apathetic. We scoff at the problems that truly matter, and don’t participate in effecting change, according to our critics. But campaigns like these show exactly what students are capable of, if they devote the time and energy. Every task seems too tall, if you don’t at least try to tackle it. But we should take pride in working to correct the issues as we see them, and pride in being able to make a difference.