According to the Princeton Review’s 2023 rankings, Lewis & Clark ranks as the fourth most liberal and the 12th most politically active college in the nation. To many students, this is not surprising given its location in Portland, one of the nation’s most liberal cities.
However, while LC’s student body may be extremely liberal and politically active, this does not guarantee efficacy of campus activism. Among both the administration and the student body, activism on campus is ineffective, as each of their methods fails to bring about change to the school.
Perhaps the most well-known form of protest students will use as “activism” is vandalism. However, the use of graffiti is highly controversial among students, as both the efficacy and purpose are questionable. The instances of vandalism I have witnessed while at LC did nothing good for bringing change. Last year’s graffiti on Indigenous Peoples’ Day at least had a message, compared to the one three weeks ago. I could understand the vandalizers’ point about changing our controversial school name, but is it truly supportive of marginalized students for a student who is most likely white and affluent to vandalize a building?
In the end, graffiti is a costly and tedious process, leaving the working class to clean up the mess made by a privileged private college student. Furthermore, as graffiti removal is expensive, LC could have invested in campus resources beneficial for the school and the very marginalized students that the vandalizers advocated for if the vandalism had not happened.
Additionally, some forms of “activism” students utilize could be offensive or perpetuate harm toward some students. In light of the recent events in Israel and Gaza, the student body appears to be divided over the situation.
While I have not witnessed or heard about any explicit antisemitic behavior happening at LC, unlike at some big-name universities, I am still concerned, as antisemitic incidents have spiked since the Israel-Gaza war.
One time, however, I found a pamphlet glued to the front door at Tamarack Lounge that read “ANTI-ZIONISM IS NOT ANTISEMITIC” and “ANTI-ZIONISM IS THE ONLY ETHICAL POSITION IN THE FACE OF APARTHEID VIOLENCE.”
The pamphlet featured an image of four people on top of a wrecked tank, with one person waving a Palestinian flag. Ironically, the pamphlet’s concluding words read: “NO STATES, NO BORDERS.” With messaging like this, I fear that Jewish and Israeli students at LC will feel unsafe on campus, since so many antisemitic incidents right now are fueled by anti-Zionist rhetoric.
Let me be clear: What is going on in both Israel and Gaza is terrible. My heart breaks for all the civilians on both sides who have been kidnapped, killed or deprived of resources.
When it comes to addressing issues within LC or across the nation and the world, faculty remain generally passive. Although LC has been hosting community dialogues, I am skeptical about their efficacy. For example, all of the upcoming community dialogues appear to solely focus on our controversial Pioneer mascot instead of other issues.
I am aware of the accusations of the Pioneer being a culturally insensitive mascot, but I do not think it is as big of an issue as others with more immediate effects. If the school truly wants to create a safe environment for everyone, they should primarily focus on ways to combat hate, while discussions about our mascot should be secondary.
Overall, I think that activism at LC tends to be ineffective at best or toxic at worst, as is the case at countless colleges. I do not think it is “activism” when a private college student vandalizes buildings with political messages while leaving workers making minimum wage to clean it up.
Utilizing offensive tactics to raise awareness for certain issues does more harm than good for everybody. Lastly, the administration must do a better job of making LC a safe environment for everyone and recognizing any conflicts happening on campus.