Hodge: Democracy is not a spectator sport

Jayla Hodge

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. Editor Jayla Hodge represents the Black/African American Cultural Center as a senator for the Associated Students of Colorado State University.

Before I was a columnist at The Collegian, I was a hater.

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Like many students on campus, I had opened the paper and read something I did not agree with: an opinion that I found deeply offensive. Other times, I felt that my community, the Black and African American community, had been misrepresented in the reporting.

I, like many students today, complained on social media. I complained in my classes and with my peers. One day, a professor asked me frankly if I had tried doing something about it. As a young sophomore, walking down to an environment full of people different than myself, to express my complaints in person, seemed terrifying. It was exactly what I did.

Two years later, I now have the privilege of serving as the editor of the opinion section. My bold but small course of action has yielded the broadest results. I am the only Black woman to serve as an editor in recent memory and possibly the first for this section. I got to help improve the faults I found; I got to make the issues recognized. 

I am also now on the receiving end of many complaints. I am constantly monitoring all the comment sections of the content produced by my desk, so I get to gauge community responses. Honestly, I ignore the b*tching. This is the job.

Not only do I read every praise and every complaint, every day I hear feedback from people who either disagree with or who love an article. The most productive feedback comes from those who take a few moments to craft Letters to the Editor. 

One thing has been made abundantly clear this year as I listened to the voices on campus: we college students are great at complaining.

We are the best at cancel culture, pros at putting people on blast and we can craft clap-backs faster than a Game of Thrones teaser trailer. While there is power in these skills, this can’t be all we are good at. We are a generation capable of anything.

Young adults for the past century have been at the forefront of social movements. There have been numerous examples of youth challenging adult society and coming out victorious. This is the legacy of college students: a precedent that has defined our nation and present lives.

In a time of social media activism, when a like or share on a post equates with caring or taking a stance, momentum in the issues is not always reflected in our real, daily lives.

A good Facebook post can sometimes be the backbone on which we build our platforms and movements, but with so many out there, this is becoming rare. Take it a step further. 

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If you do not like something, change it. If you don’t feel represented, sometimes you must represent yourself. If there is not a person speaking about the issues you care about, then start speaking.

“I refuse to accept the things I can not change, but change the things I can not accept”-Angela Davis

Sometimes, like now with the current Associated Students of Colorado State University elections, we have an opportunity to give input and to select a representative that best reflects our values as a community and our values as Rams. This is a course of action that goes widely unutilized. 

In the past years, ASCSU has had a voter turnout rate of around 16-25%. 

I hear the voices of students; I know there are issues we care about and see in our community. It’s on your Twitter accounts and Facebook posts. Take it a step further, and take it to your representatives. The results will take you further.

If you do not like something in the world, in your life, or simply with your college newspaper or student government, the best thing you can do is try to improve it.

It’s as simple as reaching out or logging onto RAMweb to vote. It’s as simple as showing up to a senate session. It’s as simple as crafting a Letter to the Editor or an email. 

Change is not always marching or boycotts. Change starts simply by caring. Change is about showing up. It takes one person to make a difference, and sometimes it takes one voice or vote.

Jayla Hodge can be reached at letters@collegain.com or Twitter at @Jaylahodge