Before school started I was given the wonderful opportunity to help welcome the new students of our campus by speaking at a variety of orientation events and info sessions. Each of these opportunities provided me with the chance to witness the formation of a community of peers.
When I myself was an anxious freshman I was too focused on wanting to sneak off campus to go to Dairy Queen to realize this, but as an outside observer who had actually gotten some sleep, I was able to see things much more clearly.
Upon reflection, what especially stuck out to me was the environment in which this camaraderie was taking shape. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors, you may not remember everything about your own orientation weekends but I’m sure you will recall that they did not take place in the midst of a global pandemic. Surely you must remember that at the time of your orientation there were not protests breaking out in Portland and all over the country in response to a history of racial injustice even older than our most historic governing documents. At the very least you must remember this: that our orientations took place in person.
But even over the Zoom screens, the energy of the incoming freshmen class was palpable. In fact, the energy of every student I have gotten the chance to speak to and work with over the summer has been one that defies the time and spatial limits of technology as it leaps and bounds off the screen. Our parents who worry about us partying and not social distancing may not believe it, but the excitement I speak of is not one rooted in anticipation of dangerously large social events and record-breaking drinking games.
The excitement and community I have been witness to, not just at orientation but over this whole summer, is a response to a call I should hope all students hear. A call I will re-extend now. The call to act. The excitement we all feel is one that hopefully every generation feels and recognizes: the excitement to create change.
Perhaps excitement is a term I use to lull the hesitant among you into a false sense of security and comfort. For the term that really comes to my mind when I think of the state of the world and what our campus community is feeling is anger. I should hope this is a reaction shared by many of you.
The kind of anger I speak about is the kind rooted in Catholic Social Teaching. It is the kind of anger expressed in the brave, inspiring words of leaders like the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Angela Davis. This is the anger we feel when every day we watch our nation march towards despair and death it can not take back. This is the passionate fury directed at our country’s history of racism and sexism. A history that has created injustices which are all too present in the current day.
I am talking about the righteous rage we feel and act on when the institutions we have come to rely on for our daily livelihood make us feel like we can not depend on them at all. It is upon these burning fires in our bellies that I call all of us to act upon. We can not expect justice and change to suddenly arrive at our doorsteps wrapped with a nice little bow. Justice must be demanded. We must march to the doorsteps (or Zoom waiting rooms) of the oppressor and stand our ground until we have created the world, country, state, and school that we are proud to call home.
This summer, student leaders used their anger and power to push and fight for justice for our BIPOC community members in the face of senseless police violence. They used it as they fought for a school environment that was fair and equitable in the COVID-19 pandemic, and as they fought for more of the shocking truth found in a powerful anonymous op-ed.
These are battles that have just begun. They are not ones that are even close to being finished. I have seen the hunger for change in action and in that I see hope for a better tomorrow. In the past I have even seen this fury directed at the Associated Students of the University of Portland for times when we have played the role of the oppressor or obstacle to justice. That is why I want to clarify that this call from action is not coming from us. Instead, we heard it from all of you and now we are joining you. There are countless student leaders fighting the good fight. It is time that ASUP looked to them for inspiration and followed in suit.
Myself and the ASUP E-Board and senate are here to support those student leaders in that fight. Whether it is when an ASUP member is in a meeting with a member of the President’s’ Leadership Cabinet or when one of us is appointing students to sit on presidential advisory committees, we know that we have been given an opportunity to have a seat at the table. If we do not use these seats to create the change we want to see in the world then I would call into question what purpose we serve at all.
When we are not fighting for justice and equality in this world of ours, we are doing nothing but holding steady the forces of injustice which dictate this world. My closing words for you all are this: hold on to your anger, Pilots. It shall carry us far as we support one another in this march for change. Wear a mask, but don’t hold your breath. We’re not waiting to act. It begins now.
Sage Taylor is the ASUP President. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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