Ohio State student organization aims to unite student activists for collective goal
Published: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Updated: Sunday, November 25, 2012 22:11
College campuses have long been a cradle for student activism, and Ohio State is no exception.
OSU is home to a diverse community which seeks to address a wide range of issues, from women’s rights to protesting sweatshop labor. One organization, the Ohio Student Association, is attempting to harness the power of these eclectic groups in order to work on what it sees as common goals.
“The student org model keeps people really separate a lot of the times,” said Molly Shack, a member of OSA who graduated in June with degrees in Spanish and international studies. “A lot of times there is a very clear intersection between somebody who is working on anti-racist work and somebody who is working on labor work, so part of it is giving the time for students to get to know one another and figure out who is there and present and then figuring out how we can escalate collectively.”
One of the primary goals of the organization is to fight for greater public funding for Ohio’s colleges.
“Something that we really want to focus on is getting Ohio to put more money to public education,” said Lainie Rini, a second-year in social work and an OSA member. “We think that education should be something that is a right for everyone.”
The organization has adopted a red square, pinned on the chest, as the symbol of this campaign.
“It’s a symbol that we are squarely in the red,” Rini said. “Meaning we are all squarely in debt right now.”
The symbol was originally used by students who successfully protested tuition hikes in Quebec. OSA members hope to use it in a similar fashion to demonstrate just how pervasive debt is among students here.
“We go about our day without really acknowledging the fact that we have debt. We’re able to get through school without paying it off, then all of a sudden you get dumped in the real world and owe this huge sum of money,” Shack said. “Part of it is an external way of showing that we really are all in this together.”
Virginia Layton, university director and bursar of OSU’s Office of Financial Services, told The Lantern about 40 percent of OSU students depend on student loans to help cover the costs of education earlier this year.
Omar Gowayed, a third-year in materials science and engineering, said he believes in the importance of this goal and the effectiveness of student activism.
“When students have power, when students are capable of making decisions in government and in their universities as well, the system becomes a lot better,” he said.
Gowayed said his Egyptian heritage makes him acutely aware of how powerful student movements can be. His sister, Heba, snuck into Egypt to join the protests that eventually led to the resignation of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Those protests were a part of what came to be known as the Arab Spring, which peaked in early 2011 and instituted a string of uprisings across Northern Africa and the Middle East that overthrew several oppressive rulers. The protests are known for being driven by young people and social media.
For Gowayed, activism is an important part of life.
“I was an activist before I was a college student, I’m an activist while I’m a college student, and from my family history and for me, I will be an activist after I’m a college student,” Gowayed said.
OSA has been an organization since January and it participants include members of Stand Your Ground, an anti-racism group, Buckeyes for Obama, College Democrats, Ohio Student Environmental Coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops and The Pulse, a progressive OSU newspaper, as well as others.