A Look at the Growing Campus Unrest
(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)
Summary: This editorial presents a review of the growing campus violence, and student unrest in many parts of the world and their causes.
Whether it is in India, Europe, USA, or elsewhere, countries that are part of the free world and where a democratic form of government prevails, one noticeable development of recent times has been the growth of extreme, radical movements in many universities and college campuses.
Such movements are mostly influenced by political groups and radical organizations, which foment trouble or social unrest to further their political and ideological agendas.
The process eventually destroys the lives and careers of many students who actively participate in them, while a few, who manage to work the system to their advantage, make a career out of them. They eventually join the political process and become an integral part of various political establishments, media companies, and lobbyists.
Many factors seem to be at work in this regard. Some of them are listed below.
1. Students are impressionable: Young minds are easily amenable to influence since they lack knowledge, maturity and experience. It is easy to draw them into a certain way of thinking, with clever manipulation, especially when those who indoctrinate them present themselves as authority figures and harbingers of political or social change.
2. They are carried away by idealism and rebelliousness: By nature young people are idealistic and rebellious. Hence, they are easily moved by the prospects of change, as they perceive the problems, injustice and imbalances that prevail in society as the reason for their unhappiness. Images of war heroes, community organizers, revolutionaries, political misfits, and cultural rebels inspire them. When they are presented with radical, social and political ideas, they perceive in them ideal solutions to the problems faced by the humanity, while they ignore any impracticality and future implications of such ideas.
3. Faculty interference and indoctrination: Faculty members in many universities have their own baggage to unload upon unsuspecting students. Many are pronounced ideologues, frustrated by their own failures and personal histories, who overtly or covertly support impractical and extreme ideologies and use every opportunity to inject their personal ideas and biases into the curriculum or their teachings. They not only try to reinforce their distorted worldviews and political agendas in the minds of young students but also encourage them to join associated movements and covert organizations.
4. Peer pressure and group dynamics: Group think and the activities of student organizations and criminal gangs play an important role in influencing student behavior on the campuses, which are mostly closed systems since outsiders are not allowed to interfere. Even those who are not ideologically driven or have any interest in the movements are often dragged into those movements due to peer pressure, intimidation, or the fear of being excluded, criticized, or ridiculed.
5. Growing inequalities and social injustice: It is difficult not to empathize with the social, racial, and economic imbalances that prevail in society and how the various systems and processes have been rigged in various parts of the world to favor a few at the expense of many. In today's age of information, it is not difficult to see how a few people enjoy the privileges and resources of the world while many are denied or excluded. Therefore, not much effort or persuasion is required to gain sympathizers for any movement that wants to fight in favor of the poor, the oppressed and the downtrodden.
6. Ignorance and lack of foresight: Many students who participate in violent protests and campus demonstrations do not foresee the full implications of their actions upon themselves and their families. In the heat of emotion, they forget their primary duty as students, and their own future, as they engage in self-destructive actions with far reaching consequences to their academic career. In many cases they do not seem to know whether their actions and the causes they uphold are even practical or justifiable. They are carried away by the passion of the moment as they join the flow.
7. Media influence: Many journalists and reporters in today’s world are themselves indoctrinated by radical and revolutionary ideas during their younger days and bring the same thought process into their profession. They are highly motivated to color their reports and interpretations with their own biases and distorted worldviews to further their career, support certain political parties or favor the organizations for which they work. They ignore their social and professional responsibilities and play a destructive role in influencing the young minds, fomenting trouble, and creating specific narratives to make events newsworthy.
Historically, since renaissance students have been at the center of many large-scale, radical movements in various parts of the world. They played a significant role in several freedom struggles, civil wars, civil rights movements, revolutions, and many social and political reform movements in various parts of the world. Clever leaders know how to channel the exuberance of youth and mold their raw passions to achieve certain political and ideological ends. In most cases the younger ones end up being the sacrificial lambs with permanent scars upon their psyche, while those who lead them and influence them end up being part of the very system which they promise to change.
The same trend seems to be at work even now. Students prefer being associated with ideologies that seem to be in harmony with current trends even if they are impractical, while they ignore those that seem to favor status quo and prevailing norms. However, as it happens in most cases, eventually many young people revert to status quo as they grow old and succumb to the pressures of life. Through trial and error, they learn to go by their self-preservation instinct rather than letting their passions and idealism lead them into an uncertain future.
The problem of student unrest is not going to go away anytime soon. With the new communication channels and the Internet, and with the growing inequalities and social injustice, probably it is going to become worse. The problem cannot be resolved with superficial solutions or with political slogans. Academic institutions must take full responsibility for the happenings in their premises, especially when they depend upon taxpayer’s money. They cannot remain silent to the violence that goes on during demonstrations and the activity of criminal gangs in student campuses. Most importantly, they must be aware of the ideological indoctrination that goes on in many campuses by the faculty and firmly deal with it without political or ideological bias.
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