Don’t be passive, act to make changes

Ari Kotler

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When I decided to attend UVM, I was aware of its status as one of the most “liberal” colleges in the U.S.

A friend of mine once characterized it as “a melting pot of crunchy mountain people, Brooklyn, New York, hipsters and ‘socially liberal’ Connecticut rich kids.”

Vermont received another, even stranger mythology from another friend: “Bernie Sanders and Ben & Jerry’s. Cows-for-all socialism. Freedom, but like, not New Hampshire.”

After move-in day, I quickly realized that UVM was little like the myths my friends told me.

In fact, two years later, I’ve begun to wonder if our association with left-wing politics is warranted.

The ski bums, the sustainability crowd, the “I’m a New Yorker” kids who are actually from Westchester county — all the characters were there, but something was missing.

Though they do some of the most crucial organizing work on campus, the most supported and popular clubs aren’t ones like Planned Parenthood Generation Action, Black Student Union or Alianza Latinx, to name a few, nor are they any of the political clubs.

Instead, the Outing Club and Ski and Snowboard Club are dominant recipients of student participation and SGA funding.

Student activists, including sophomore Harmony Edoswoman, sophomore Syd Ovitt and senior Seth Wade, put their academic standing in danger by organizing for our rights as students.

But few students can say they did enough, or anything, to stand with them.

I shamefully include myself.

While many of our peers practice inclusion and solidarity, still too many engage in racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and bigotry.

Out of the 10,000 or so students at UVM, only a small fraction are involved in activism or politics.

The rest just pay lip service, indifferent at best and oppositional at worst.

So, where is the activist campus many of us expected when we came to Vermont?

Our school administration threatens our bravest peers, slashes funding for our favorite programs and fires our most beloved professors.

White nationalist threats are posted around campus annually. Our emails chime with alerts of sexual violence committed on campus. Our rent gets more expensive and our lives more precarious.

In Burlington and around the state, extreme inequality of wealth and income is prevalent.

While the privileged enjoy a comfortable life, many Vermonters struggle to pay the bills. Addiction takes hundreds of lives. Homelessness strikes our most vulnerable.

Across the country, the lives of ordinary people are under attack. Women’s rights, immigrant rights, the rights of people of color, the lives of workers, are all at risk.

People go bankrupt because they don’t have health care. Flint, Michigan, still doesn’t have clean water. Our planet is dying.

And we just stand by and watch it happen.

As students, we have a responsibility to lend ourselves to the struggle for justice. To neglect that responsibility is a moral crime.

So, the path forward is simple: let’s get to work.