Over the last several weeks, students began trickling into Moscow’s end of summer stretch for Greek recruitment and individual move-in days, bringing a sense of life back to campus.
The busier traffic lights, the nearly full parking lots and the longer wait in once-dead coffee shops all signify the beginning of a new school year, with new faces, new classes and new possibilities.
As UI students, we are lucky in our conveniently mid-sized, almost picturesque college town to be welcomed back with such community spirit.
While we sift through aisles of textbooks and plan how exactly to view next week’s eclipse without being late to class, there is another campus across the country that experienced a different welcome home last week.
The University of Virginia (U. V.a), in Charlottesville, Virginia, is similar to UI — a public research university, in a picturesque town, with a strong sense of community spirit. After the events that transpired last week, however, that is where the similarities stop.
U. V.a. students found, as they too trickled back into their town, that their campus was taken over by protests filled with anger, hatred and plenty of confusion, leading to many injuries and several deaths.
What began as a rally to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, spiraled into what many people called a riot. The events of this protest originated in a central location on the U. V.a. campus, where white nationalist demonstrators and counter protesters stood head-to-head.
In the New York Times article “What U. V.a. Students Saw in Charlottesville,” one student recounted protesters marching through campus with lit torches, while another student witnessed Nazi-esque speech and gestures.
Imagine, for just a moment, how confounding and frightening this back-to-school welcome must have been for those students of all backgrounds and political affiliations.
While UI students and U. V.a. students only share some similarities, it is important to remember that as young adults, with more power than we often know, we have the ability to stand with one another when our “home away from home” is taken away from us — even for just a day.
College campuses are not sealed in and tucked away from the outside world. With an array of so many students and community members given the ability to access public university property, students often see the most unusual and sometimes alarming things. In this capacity, university campuses have long been an ideal place to connect with others via protests and riots — some safe, some dangerous.
It would make sense that protests of all kinds take place where moldable minds are present.
But these protests were different.
Though UI is miles away from the political turmoil that often envelopes the eastern side of the United States, Moscow is still a politically active community, where real change can occur.
When events like those in Charlottesville materialize, it’s important to not feel hopeless, and instead attempt to feel a sense of engagement.
Because UI offers so many resources and classes that allow for students to learn about the world, culture and politics that surrounds them, there is no reason to shy away from being politically and socially engaged.
By doing this, students have the platform to speak out and stand with one another — safely and actively in the places we all call home.