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Legacy of student activism lives on at Queens College

Queens College is famous for the roles student activists played not only on campus, but across the U.S. as well.

From anti-war rallies to mass sit-ins at buildings, students helped define and change what it means to be an activist over the history of the college.

Today activism is still a major part of student life on campus in spite of new issues appearing in society.

“Activism is a way to create change through people’s actions. It is creating awareness in the community in order to cause people to take action and demand better political change.” Lorena Carino, senior, said.

Carino is a member of the DREAM Team, which aims to raise awareness on immigration reform and support undocumented students.

Juan Munoz, another member of the DREAM Team, offered his own definition of what activism means.

“Activism means an opportunity to alter the status quo and voice the opinions of others. Activism is a catalyst for change,” Munoz said.

Another student-led organization on campus is NYPIRG, founded in 1973. With more than 85,000 members statewide, it is the largest student-directed research and advocacy organization in New York. Their primary concerns are issues like environmental protection, higher education and voter registration.

Tiffany Brown, a project coordinator with NYPIRG and QC alum, discussed how student activism was able to get CUNY students classified as a specific demographic for voter registration. Thus, it provided better understanding of certain New York City districts where CUNY students reside.

“The CUNY Board of Directors along with NYPIRG and other groups fought really hard to get the [CUNY demographic] put on the voter registration form…and it helps us when we’re talking about higher education issues and consumer protection,” Brown said.

Brown encouraged students, already registered to vote, to re-register as CUNY students as it builds a stronger case for reform in districts where CUNY students are most affected.

Ali Kirkpatrick, also a project coordinator for NYPIRG, strongly encouraged all students to be proactive and get involved in their community.

“We have an enormous potential to make an enormous difference if we just go out to the polls and exercise that one civic duty that we have. We can change so much. There is so much untapped potential and communicating that effectively is something we definitely do on campus,” Kirkpatrick said.

Grace Magee, also a QC alum and project coordinator for NYPIRG, emphasized the importance of not only being a registered voter but being an informed voter as well.

“A huge piece of it is doing the research. Something people don’t talk about a lot with voting and what that means is learning who these people are,” Magee said.

Other activist groups on campus include Students Without Borders, Environmental Club and Student Organization for Democratic Alternatives.

For the DREAM Team, Carino said it could influence the public when it comes to immigration issues.

“Our club hopes that American society becomes more aware of the issues surrounding immigration. We hope that people may become more informed with these issues and will hopefully be able to make better political choices,” Carino said.

Carino added activism, in general, can dictate the narrative on issues, which can positively affect the future.

“Activism in our community will eventually cause change by starting conversations that weren’t a part of the community before,” Carino said. “These conversations and changes are significant for others to know how important our voices can be. Our voices are important because future generations will be able to benefit from the significant changes and will also learn that taking action can make a difference.”

Phil Vallone

Phil is a junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Journalism. He is also a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2013. He covers events and activism at CUNY. After graduating, he plans to cover politics and activism around the world. You can follow him on Twitter @philvallone or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/journophil. Contact him at philvallo[at]theknightnews.com

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