July 16, 2019 | 67° F

Rutgers study finds first-year students more likely to protest than older ones

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

The class of 2019 participated in more protests than previous years. Students from the last five years are more politically involved than in the past as well, according to a study.

First-year college students are more likely to partake in political demonstrations, according to the Cooperative Institutional Research Program.

A study, conducted by the research program, assessed the political activism of the Class of 2019.

When more than 140,000 full-time first-year students were asked if they would demonstrate or protest, 8.5 percent said they had a “very good chance” of doing so, a 2.9 percent growth from the Class of 2018, according to USA Today.

The increased enthusiasm for political movements is unusually higher than previous years, said Ellen Stolzenberg, assistant director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program.

For those questioning the validity of the study, Stolzenberg said the data was collected “between March and October 2015,” long before students have officially started their college semester.

“(Our) data (was) collected before a lot of some of the larger-scale protests that we read about, but the students are exposed,” she said.

Members of the student body at the Douglass Residential College have taken an active role in activism for equality and social justice, said Jacquelyn Litt, dean of Douglass Residential College. 

“The national context of campus activism and the awareness around inclusion and exclusion in campus, local and national contexts have likely created the conditions for the interest," she said. 

According to the research program, 81 percent, 64 percent and 56 percent of first-year students support same-sex marriage, the legal status of abortion and the legalization of marijuana, respectively.

Litt, a professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, speaks for Douglass Residential College, but said this phenomenon is not exclusive to that campus. 

Charlotte Bunch, a professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, believes students over the past four to five years are more politically active than the decade before them.

"I think this reflects the emergence of more political movements since the economic downturn of 2008,” she said. 

Several movements, including Occupy Wall Street and students against sexual assault on campus, demonstrate this, she said.

The Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance hosted a screening of the documentary “The Hunting Ground,”  about college rape, and invited two of the main individuals featured in the film last October.

The attendance surpassed 2,000, filling the College Avenue Gymnasium and leaving only standing room and back-room seats for those who arrived late, according to The Daily Targum.

The Black Lives Matter movement is a source of greater political activism. Ethel Brooks, an associate professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, said the movement has been key in galvanizing student activism.

Students from all backgrounds are reaching across the table to understand minority struggles, according to the study. Seventy-five percent of all college first-year students that were surveyed feel it is important to help others in difficulty.

Just last Thursday, members of the Muslim Students Association reached out to members of the Black Lives Matter movement to better understand how racism affects the Muslim community, and how Muslims can be better allies to the campaign, according to The Daily Targum.

Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos also faced opposition during his visit to the University earlier this month, after activists protested and smeared red paint on their faces and clothing, according to The Daily Targum.

“I struggled a bit with whether it was useful to protest his event at all and whether it was most appropriate to do so in this manner,” said Patrick Gibson, a School of Arts and Science junior, in a letter to the Targum. “Ultimately I came to the conclusion that the action was important."


Bushra Hasan is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @Hasanabanana for more.

Bushra Hasan

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