Willamette students mobilize to create dialogue on real-world issues

Students across the Willamette University campus have been sporting strips and bracelets of pink tape this week as they confront the fast-approaching Congressional vote on H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” — making sure politicians hear their voices of the issue.

The campus came alive earlier this week as several student organizations took measures to provide information to students about the bill. S.H.E. (Strength, Health, Equality), a women’s social issue awareness student organization, posted fliers around campus, held a meeting addressing the issue and encouraged students to wear pink tape to promote discussion.

S.H.E. is among the 100-plus student-developed organizations on the Willamette campus. The Office of Student Activities reports that 95.5% of students are involved in at least one of these co-curricular activities, and the average Bearcat is involved in more than three activities.

According to Lisa Holliday, associate dean of campus life and director of student activities, the reaction to the H.R. 3 bill comes as no surprise.

“This paints a picture of what is typical at Willamette,” she says. “Students see a problem in the community, and they immediately take action — it’s characteristic of our student body.”

During the 2010 earthquake crisis in Haiti, for example, students enacted a number of fundraising efforts, including a meal-points donation fund led by Associated Students of Willamette University Senator Tej Reddy ’12. Students headed across the street to the state Capitol just last Saturday to join a rally surrounding the exodus of the 14 Wisconsin state senators.

“It was cool for me as an administrator to see students rallying together for a cause and developing a dialogue,” says Beth Dittman, assistant director of student activities. “It’s exciting when it’s in reaction to a real-world event as opposed to a theoretical classroom scenario. It’s indicative of the college student mentality and the Willamette experience in particular.”

Indeed, another organization, the College Democrats, responded to the real-world H.R. 3 issue by arranging an event offering a petition-signing, publicity photos for individual use on Facebook and resources for contacting senators.

According to President Megan Manion ’14, the College Democrats are a group of liberally minded people devoted to promoting voter registration, education and participation, and making issues of public policy accessible to Willamette students. Manion, still in the first few weeks of her newly elected position, immediately took steps to spearhead the H.R. 3 awareness campaign.

“Upon hearing the news of the various bills that House Republicans had passed, I immediately read the text of the bills and began to plan an event for within the week,” she says.

While there is currently no active division of the College Republicans, conservative-minded students have their outlets in student organizations as well. Nick Taylor ’13, “The Conservative Voice” of the Collegian student newspaper’s weekly “Political Party Animals” column, says he supports the reaction of student organizations to national and international issues such as this.

“It was admirable when everybody stepped up immediately to try to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti,” says Taylor, a politics major. “Though I don’t necessarily agree with the reaction to this measure in Congress, I understand that students want their voices to be heard, and I fully support them in doing so. I like the involvement.”

The College Democrats also collaborated with S.H.E. members to get involved in Planned Parenthood’s national “Raise Your Hand” campaign, and S.H.E. is planning an event for Friday.

For more information on organizations such as these, visit the Office of Student Activities website.