Editorial: Addressing Important Issues on Campus

Editorial: Addressing Important Issues on Campus

Now that freshman have completed orientation and classes are underway and the day-to-day of a college campus has resumed. So, too, have some of the important issues that dominated the campus conversation at Fordham last May before the class of 2015 graduated.

Some of these topics have become undeniably American ones, covered in national newspaper and magazines and discussed on just about every college campuses. Many of these issues are unique to different campuses, but here are some of the most important ones for Fordham students:

1) Sexual Assault
Last year, the Sexual Assault Task Force partnered with organizations across campus and created a video to raise awareness of sexual assault. The university released a school-wide survey to gauge students’ attitudes toward, and experiences with, sexual assault, and Rose Hill hosted a Take Back the Night event for sexual assault survivors and advocates to come together in solidarity.

The Task Force, headed by a member of United Student Government and by a member of Women’s Empowerment, is expected to release a report in the coming months. For students, this issue obviously surpasses a single document: sexual assault continues on the nation’s campuses despite efforts by administrators to thwart them.

Last year, the issue played out in the public when Columbia Student Emma Sulkowicz carried a mattress around campus until she graduated waiting for her alleged perpertrator to be brought to justice.

Students need to diversify methods of sexual assault education: it should be happening earlier on, and should educate on knowing when you are being sexually assaulted and when you are sexually assaulting another person. Bystander intervention will also continue to be a central part of this discussion.

2) Campus Sustainability
The discussion of sustainability continues to be worthy of student attention on college campuses across the country. Campuses have begun paying more attention to things like energy efficiency, recycling rates, water use, green buildings and courses on sustainability. Fordham is continuing to discuss these issues with students as the Sustainability Committee on USG. Just this summer, Pope Francis issued an encyclical on the environment, called “Praise be to you.” The lengthy document, which drew just as much praise as it did criticism, issued an urgent message about climate change, demanding that world leaders act on his call for environmental justice and climate action. We in college should do the same.

3) Free Speech
This past summer, The Atlantic published an article by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt titled “The Coddling of the American Mind.” The lengthy piece tackled many of the issues threatening free speech on college campuses. “A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students,” the authors write, “to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.”

The authors claimed many of the new terms becoming more popular on college campuses — micro-aggressions, trigger warnings, safe zones — were threatening education and the mental health of students. We believe that while students should strive to be thoughtful and inclusive in their speech, they also should not shy away from questioning, or even making one another uncomfortable, during important discussions. This is college — our ideas and beliefs should be challenged; those challenges make us stronger, more intelligent people.

4) College Debt
While the economy, national security and foreign policy will undoubtedly dominate the next few months of the presidential nomination process, mounting college debt continues to be a national issue plaguing millions of students.

In all, Americans owe about $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and about eight million are defaulting their loans. Some presidential candidates — mainly Hillary Clinton — have offered plans for paying for college. President Obama has offered more limited plans to make community college more accessible to low-income Americans. Clinton’s plan would call for grants given to states that guarantee that students would not have to take out loans to cover tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. Whether candidates begin to address this issue, and whether institutions like Fordham can curb tuition increases should be of great concern over the next academic year, and should be a deciding factor in who the college-age population votes for in the primary season.

5) Residential Life
Last year concluded with some spirited discussion about the status of residential life, and the treatment of students who choose to be resident assistants (RAs). Much of this hinged on an article posted by a graduating senior who, while using several anonymous sources, drew claims that some RAs were treated unfairly. The Ram received several passionate letters to the editor as well, and there were important questions raised during the final Student Life Committee meeting. Though only a small segment of the student body are RAs, it is an important group of students who do a great service to the university.

Their concerns are worth considering, by their fellow students and by university administrators. How this issue pans out over the next few months will be interesting, and The Ram hopes to play an integral part in the exchange of ideas on this important topic.