Campus protesters face rude student reactions

It’s sometimes difficult to talk about race. But in light of the recent petition, I feel it necessary to make a few observations. After viewing the second action via student protestors, I couldn’t help but notice the difference between last year’s demonstration and this year’s petition. One, the change in tactics. The performance that occurred last year was nowhere to be seen. This year, clipboards and sandwich boards were non-threatening. As they stationed themselves in the Brew, a high traffic area for students, the students were polite, welcoming, and placing themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Watching the many reactions from students brought forth an awkward realization. While I may not always agree entirely with the views of the group, their tactics this time around are to be lauded. It’s the reactions from other students that were disappointing this time around. There was a definitive classification of student reactions, ranging from brave to rude. First, there were students who happily obliged in signing the petition, providing positive reinforcement for the volunteers. Second, there were those who were curious, often asking questions that led to open conversations over something they didn’t fully comprehend. The third group is what concerns me most, those who blatantly ignored the protestors, some even made sure to avoid eye contact and gave them a wide berth. This discomfort brings forth a necessary conversation for our campus: open-mindedness. It’s not just lack of support for an issue. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it’s the blatant disregard that the volunteers received from other students that concerns me. Nothing is gained when you roll your eyes or attempt to secretly take photos. It’s an active attempt to be disrespectful. I applaud those who made connections and had conversations outside of their comfort zone. It allowed me to have faith that the Augustana community is starting to be more receptive. With 1,023 signatures, which equates to 40 percent of the student body, it’s safe to say students want change. However, it will be a rude wake up call for those who ignored the protestors, considering the demographic changes occurring in the United States. Not only are they closing themselves off from their peers, but a national issue that will only continue to grow. You can only hide for so long. After all, the Pew Research Center projects that “apart from its size, the high school class of 2025 will also look different from today’s incoming college freshmen. Immigration and births of second-generation immigrants are likely to drive up the shares of Hispanic and Asian students.” I encourage both liberal and conservative students to have these difficult conversations. The very underground and silent conservative sector of the college remains unheard. I’d like to hear what they have to say. Once one person starts a discussion, we can begin on mending mutual student respect. No matter the cause, we need to approach dissent and discourse with open arms. I look forward to the next step in the process for the students who organized the petition. I have a feeling this is just the beginning.