It is no secret that many young students are keen activists. Whether it’s in support of a cause, ideology or even political movement, students are key to the maintenance and success of activist groups worldwide. But why? What draws so many students to these kinds of groups?
Many cynics would question the motivation of students who involve themselves with activist groups and may even firmly disagree with the concept of activist groups altogether. Numerous students, however, still push on with their activist ambitions in spite of the substantial criticism. I was keen to understand more about why this would be, and indeed why so many students are so interested in activism. For this, I needed some help.
In my time looking into student activist culture I was lucky enough to sit down with Esther, one of the leading lights of the University of Birmingham Amnesty International society. Esther was kind enough to share her thoughts on why students in particular invest themselves so heavily in activism.
Speaking about the importance of activism to student culture, she stated: ‘You might not get the opportunity to dedicate your time to it when you’re older. You don’t want to look back and regret what you didn’t do’.
It could be said that the key is time. The multitude of responsibilities which later life carries leaves little room for activist-like concerns. Young, bright and politically-minded students are therefore central to the causes that activist groups represent.
Responding to criticism
I was interested to know about how people involved with groups like Amnesty International face up to the harsh critics of their movement. In response to this, Esther thought it best if, ‘you try and understand why people criticise, if you do then you can help to persuade them differently’.
It was so refreshing to hear this in a world that often seeks to make decisions on the basis of who shouts the loudest. It’s important for activist groups not only to talk, but to listen to the thoughts and feelings of even their harshest critics.
While speaking to me, Esther highlighted some of the really important work activist groups such as Amnesty International are involved with. Human rights, support for the homeless and campaigning to give everyone a better quality of life are just a few of the many crucial campaigns that students are involved with. Not only does activism give students an outlet, but also a feeling that they really can make a difference.
I am happy to admit that I have always been sceptical about the effectiveness of activist groups which involve so many students. However, after sitting down with Esther and talking to many other keen student activists, I realised it’s not only about the cause. It is also about belonging to something that strives to make a difference while using your time as a student effectively.
I for one would now wholeheartedly recommend to any student to be involved with their student activist groups at university. You never know what kind of difference you could make.