Patel: Don’t curb your advocacy, but be mindful of incoming students

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Patel: Don’t curb your advocacy, but be mindful of incoming students

Meera Patel, Columnist

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Prospective students have been everywhere for the past few weeks. Spring Quarter means nicer weather – knock on wood – and a bunch of parents taking pictures of their kids under The Arch or next to the Northwestern sign at Fisk. It’s also been a week full of student activism for important causes on campus.

I support many of the causes that students are working for. I’m a part of a few of them, but it concerns me when current NU students trash talk certain aspects of our university around prospective students.

Put yourself in their shoes: Are you going to want to come to a university where everywhere you go, there seem to be students who are unhappy with their experience, breaking an old NU tradition by painting complaints over the Rock without guarding it first?

This doesn’t only affect the administration, it affects us students.

For whatever reasons, you picked NU as the school you wanted to go to. You’re here right now; you’re going to graduate with a degree from Northwestern University.

If in the next five years, students stop wanting to come to NU, what are people going to think of that degree? Is NU going to be able to fund as many activities, the ones that helped us meet like-minded activists, as it does now?

It’s really important for us to speak up and to talk about these issues that face college campuses today, especially at our own schools, but we need to be careful of our audience.

We’ve all learned, one way or another, that once something is on the Internet, it’s out of our hands. It can go viral in a matter of hours, or even minutes.

One part of being a leader in any sense, whether it’s as a parent or as the president of an organization, is that you are responsible for the actions of your constituents, whether you have control over them or not.

As a person, you represent not just yourself, but your family, your last name, any organizations you’re a part of, your faith and anything else that you believe in.

We tend to generalize and make assumptions on an entire group of people based on the actions of one or two of them. This is something we need to keep in mind both when reflecting on the actions of others and when thinking about our own actions.

If you do something stupid and know it, and you tell someone you are a part of an organization, that person is going to associate whatever stupid thing you did with that organization, whether the leaders of that organization told you to do it or not.

Here at NU, there are a lot of changes taking place. I know of at least one large-scale organization that has standards review committees in place to ensure that events put on by members of this organization live up to the standards that are expected of them. We have to start a conversation about the parts of our university that we feel strongly about, but we need to make absolutely sure that we know the full story before we start publicizing all the problems we see on campus.

Again, I’m not saying we don’t have problems on campus or that we shouldn’t talk about them. I am saying that we need to be absolutely sure we know the complete story, what we’re saying and how it reflects on us before making assumptions. There are two sides to every single story. Be sure to understand those before pointing your finger at someone else.

Corrected: A previous version of this column referred to a group of students protesting and handing out fliers by the rock. The students were not handing out negative materials. The column has been updated with clarifications from the columnist. The Daily regrets the error. 

 Meera Patel is a McCormick junior. She can be reached at meera@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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