Staff Editorial

Why Are Student Opinions Being Trivialized?

Natalie Battaglia | Loyola University ChicagoStudent Sonia Ramirez engages Patrick M. Boyle, PhD Interim Provost, in discussion about her research at the 2016 Undergraduate Research & Engagement Symposium in the Mundelein Center Apr. 16, 2016.

Despite the efforts of young adults to become informed and get involved, adults of authority seem reluctant to play ball, let alone put their views on the same pedestal as others.

Just in the last week, a Republican state representative in Florida equated students’ calls for stricter gun control in the wake of last month’s deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida with whining about homework.

“We’ve been told that we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask,” state representative Elizabeth Porter said. “Are there any children making laws? Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says no homework?”

“No. The adults make the laws,” Porter concluded.

This condescending tone occurs across multiple issues, from guns to race to sexual assault.

Also last week, Saifullah Khan, a 25-year-old suspended Yale University student, was found not guilty in a rare sexual assault case that went to trial. Khan was accused of raping a fellow student after a Halloween party in 2015 while she was heavily intoxicated.

“We’re grateful to six courageous jurors who were able to understand that campus life isn’t the real world,” Khan’s attorney said in a statement after the trial.

In what world are these young adults not capable of autonomous and credible opinions? Since when are 20-somethings in college not living in the real world?

The PHOENIX has called on students to put their activism into action in a recent staff editorial. The Parkland teenagers, such as Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, have gone above and beyond — not just by voicing views on social media, but by lobbying for their beliefs at the Florida State Capital and organizing a march for sensible gun control in Washington, D.C.

Right here on Loyola’s campus, students have spoken out in the last two weeks against perceived racial profiling by Campus Safety officers though a movement called #NotMyLoyola. The movement was sparked by the arrest of Alan Campbell, a black Loyola student, after he was involved with a police search of two black ticket scalpers on campus outside a men’s basketball game Feb. 24.

Loyola’s handling of the incident initially seemed to fail to take the students’ concerns seriously. The university’s initial statement said despite tensions between police and black citizens nationally, the incident had nothing to do with race.

In response, numerous Loyola students of color at a town hall event March 1 shared personal stories of being stopped and questioned by Campus Safety officers on campus.

While the university has since announced measures to improve on-campus student-police relations, students showed why the outrage over Campbell’s arrest wasn’t overblown. While the university portrayed this as an isolated event misrepresented by the student body, these students recognized it was part of a pattern.

Students should be engaged with, not patronized and discounted. The PHOENIX expressed previously that professors should seek to discuss with students how to form more solid opinions when disagreements arise. While college is a place to grow and form opinions, that doesn’t mean students’ views aren’t credible or warrant such condescension.

In a tweet last month, disgraced, fired Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly suggested these Parkland students are too emotional to be taken seriously and their views are the product of “peer pressure.”

In a column for the National Review, columnist Ben Shapiro questioned where these kids claim to get their expertise from.

At 16, teens can work jobs and drive cars. At 18, they can vote, enlist in the military and be on a jury. In some states, 18-year-olds can gamble, smoke and buy guns. Additionally, college students publish academic research for an adult audience and student journalism serves the local community just as much as the campus.

Students are held to a high standard by adults on college campuses and in high school buildings when it comes to their conduct and work, yet it seems when they venture astray and question the status quo, they’re suddenly seen as whiny kids who don’t know any better.

While some of these young adults are legally deemed adults, many leaders push back and make that definition more elastic when it suits them.

Those who do push back, like some of the examples mentioned, often do so as part of their own agenda. It’s doubtful these young voices would be disregarded if the authority figures agreed with them.

While politicians are quick to skewer young adults for what they see as peer-influenced opinions, many on both sides of the aisle are influenced by lobbying groups at the same time.

Maturity isn’t, and shouldn’t be, based on a number. Many teenagers are more informed and more intelligent than some notable leaders. That’s not to discount adults with decades of wisdom and experience — they have a lot to teach young adults. But the old guard needs to realize  young adults also have much to offer.

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