A movement may be emerging on college campuses. Though it may seem like the well-publicized string of protests slowed at the turn of the spring semester, a new survey of college freshman indicates that these students are more interested in political engagement and activism than they have been in years.
The annual American Freshman Survey, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, polled 141,189 full-time students at nearly 200 colleges. Students across the country have been protesting racial injustice in their communities and responding to national conversations after high-profile shootings in places like Ferguson, New York City, and Baltimore, as well as highlighting problems such as campus sexual assault and college affordability. “Perhaps connected to the increased activism among college and high school students over the past year, first-time, full-time college students in 2015 report substantially greater likelihoods of participating in student protests and demonstrations while in college compared to their peers who entered last year,” the study says.
The percent of students who said they had a “very good chance” of participating in protests increased 2.9 percentage points—from 5.6 to nearly 9 percent—since last year’s survey, making this class the most ambitious about campus demonstrations in the survey’s 50-year history. “Many of these students, if not nearly all of them, were seniors in high school last spring when demonstrations against hostile campus climates and sexual assault were occurring,” Kevin Eagan, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California at Los Angeles, told Inside Higher Ed.