Ferris leaders in social activism

Methods may have changed over the course of history, but Ferris students have found a way to stoke the conversation for change

Ferris State students would certainly be hard-pressed to find a large-scale protest on university grounds today, yet students’ involvement in socio-political issues is palpable.

As some campus events allure students with promises of extra credit for their time, others are taking a pragmatic approach to social change.

“At Ferris we have events that include 5-star speakers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s better to learn off each other than listening a speaker present for an hour,” Breia Harris, Ferris sophomore in biochemistry, said.

Harris, who attributes her leadership style from humble beginnings on Chicago’s notorious South Side, saw a need for action. She, along with the student chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), headed an event titled “I am Not Who You Think I Am” on March 6.

Thirty-five students actively participated in the two and a half hour long conversation about common stereotypes amongst the student population. There were no side bars in conversation, but a single, united voice.

Surprisingly, all but two students stayed for its entirety. In the rendition, students who fit the common labels sat in plain sight unsuspectingly to the public. After numerous common associations of the stereotype were given by attendees, the given students introduced themselves to the group and divulged the error of thought.

“It’s surprising because you’d expect professors to be pushing this, but that’s not what you see here. You see the students that want to make a difference,” Ferris junior in communication Joshua Miles said.

The task to involve herself in an issue that is relevant personally was handed down by Dr. Stephanie Thomson in relation to her public advocacy class at Ferris, but Harris’ level of involvement far-exceeded the course guidelines.

“When students do take a stance, it’s particularly important and has great value in terms of experience and moving our country forward,” Thomson said.

Thomson has heard some of the grumblings concerning the difficulties of one person making a difference, but every voice has an echo and a residual action.

“There are so many social issues that are going to impact students, even if they don’t know it right now. They will have a huge impact later down the road,” Thomson said.

The utilization of protests was a cornerstone of the civil rights movement at Ferris and across the country.

The conversation concerning the role protests have in today’s society in comparison to years past is a talk that Cory Bond, NAACP student chapter vice-president, recently had among his peers.

“Protests were a necessity back in years past. As we move closer to a colorless society, the use of protests is not quite as necessary,” Bond said.

Students noted that while they respect the initiative laid out by prior civil-rights leaders, they look into their personal lives for inspiration to action. Students have an opportunity to learn in a diverse culture on campus, but the need for action by the masses has not been seen by Harris.

“Ferris State students are involved only so much. They attend events but are bribed by extra credit. That’s the problem, because students should go if they truly want to,”
Harris said.