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Be informed, get involved in student activism

Over the past year and change since I joined the board of The Daily Targum, I’ve received plenty of different responses when telling people that I work for this paper. Some have accused us of liberal or conservative bias — some, for being boring and irrelevant to students — some, that we don’t cover enough serious topics. But the most common answer was simply, “Oh, I don’t read the Targum.”

I can understand these students have larger concerns than the latest Rutgers-led research or last night’s RUSA meeting. Far more concerning to me is the general trend of indifference to what’s happening on campus and how financial and student life issues are affecting Rutgers. For every passionate activist or changemaker I’ve interviewed, I’ve met many who were unaware of the issues I was writing about.

So as I am leaving the board soon, I have one more message to impart to readers: Read.

Read the Targum, for a start. Read the local papers. Read the national papers. Read the Wikipedia page on whatever issue you’re curious about. Read some scientific studies. Read about whatever social justice issue concerns you. Read about the latest policies passed by the Board of Governors. Read the latest articles students are writing — whether it’s the Rutgers Science Review or The Anthologist. And don’t just read the biggest publications — read all the small alternatives, the nonprofit websites and the blogs that completely contradict your political views.

But don’t just read the news — be the news. Sure, sharing articles on social media is helpful. But personal action is a faster and more effective route. Vote. Join a student organization. Create your own student organization, or just a blog. Do some of your own research. Fundraise for a cause you believe in. Campaign for a candidate. Protest injustices, on a small scale or a large one. Begin a dialogue between students and administration. Reach out to your representative in the assembly or in the state. Don’t assume anyone else is going to do it for you.

Many of the students who have confessed they do not read the Targum have seemed embarrassed to tell me or have apologized for it. In the end, though, it’s far more important to me that students continue to create stories to report on, whether they cause division or unite opposing factions.

The space of this column could not encompass my pride and love for the team I’ve worked with to cover all these stories. Nor could I express enough my pride for the team that will take my place. I am confident they have the ability to cover all the news that comes their way whether good, bad or indifferent. It’s up to you, the reader, to ensure that they still have something to cover.

Erin Petenko is a School of Arts and Sciences junior double majoring in journalism and public health. She is an Associate News Editor of The Daily Targum. 

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