Students should invest in Washburn

ReAnne Utemark

At the Kansas concert, everyone from the aging hippies to their children had a great time listening to an energetic band play great songs from a different era. Sure the 1960s and 1970s were not as nostalgic as “That 70’s Show” or the aging hippies make them out to be. Nixon, gas prices, downturn in the economy and the cold war permeated American society. While I cannot get nostalgic about a time during which I was not alive, I do have to wonder what happened to the rabble-rousing student?

This month also marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. It held that a school district could not suspend students for wearing black armbands in an anti-war protest because the students did not pose a significant threat of disruption.

While I was working with the University archivist over the summer, I learned a lot about Washburn’s rich past. I also enjoyed looking at the old issues of the Washburn Review, to learn about what students were thinking about, in the mid-1970s, it was, among other issues, tuition and fee increases, possible intervention in the Middle East and student apathy.

Sound familiar?

I am not sure if this is history repeating itself or if Washburn students are just the same.

Admittedly, so many Washburn students are required to work more than 30 hours per week and take out loans just to make their tuition payments. What are they getting out of college, though? Are they just getting a degree to get a job? Is that what college is about? I have always thought that college students have a unique opportunity to draw attention to important issues.

I also saw a piece about how the president’s office would make a good place for a sit in. It seems like current Washburn students don’t have time for a sit in. We wouldn’t know how to go about it. We are too busy with jobs and chasing that ever-important “A.”

This is not to say that I think we should recreate another group of Ichabods’ experiences. I do think, however, that Washburn students need to take more of an initiative in their college experience, emphasis on experience.

Ever wonder how or why college tuition went from $300 for 15 hours in 1975 to almost $3000 for 15 hours in 2009? That is a 900 percent increase. While I understand that everything has gone up in price since 1975, a 900 percent increase seems like a lot.

College is not supposed to be a short stop on the way to “Jobsville.” It is supposed to help you discover who you are and who you want to be.

Sure, protests have gotten a bad name, especially in Topeka, because of the blight that positions itself in front of Family Video and at the corner of 17th and Gage. Also, sit ins and peaceful protests around the flag pole are a bit outdated, but in a time of increasing Web presence – blogging, micro blogging, etc. – there are new ways to make an impact on your university and the world around you.

I hope that Washburn students celebrate the ability to say what they want, when they want, by any means possible. WSGA elections are coming up – make the candidates listen to you, don’t let them set the agenda. Don’t forget that college isn’t JUST about getting a degree and getting out. It is about learning and growing and making a difference. Invest yourself in your University – you and it will be all the better.