Protests, rallies and events of similar accord have been taking place on campuses throughout the United States, and Keene State College is no exception.
KSC students have taken on a number of different projects that have allowed them to advocate for changes they want to see in the world.
Environmental studies professor Fred Taylor is teaching a class this semester called “Environmental Advocacy and Ethics,” and said that the student response has been great.
“Students are the adults of the future,” Taylor said. “They’re the ones that are creating the world that we’re going to be living our way into. It’s in their interest to have it work because that’s their future.”
Taylor said the students in his class are working closely with activists in the area to raise awareness about environmental issues.
According to Taylor, the largest group is working with the Pisgah Defenders to raise awareness regarding commercial logging in Pisgah State Park.
KSC alumnus and regional field director for NextGen Climate New Hampshire Brian Rodgers gave a presentation to Taylor’s class, and said that it sparked an interested in some students.
“Understanding the power of student activism can facilitate incredible change, especially in New Hampshire,” Rodgers said.
Additionally, students involved in the Keene Cannabis Coalition are advocating for the legalization of marijuana.
Further, students were recently involved with the nationwide Million Student March to protest student debt.
These projects are just some that illustrate what students are doing to become involved as activists in the Keene State community.
Pisgah Defenders aim to cut down on commercial logging
According to pisgahdefenders.org, 64 percent of Pisgah State Park currently allows for commercial logging.
Pisgah Defenders are working to change that, and to preserve the park for recreational use. Students in environmental studies professor Fred Taylor’s class are working closely with activists from Pisgah Defenders to raise awareness of the logging and how it’s affecting the park.
The group went on a hike through Pisgah with Hinsdale resident Laurel Powell, who showed them the areas where the logging is taking place.
Powell said that Pisgah Defenders is not against logging entirely, but instead are just trying to cut down on how much is happening.
“What the Defenders are noticing already is that [the loggers] are kind of pointing certain areas that they said they weren’t going to touch,” Powell said.
Student in the Environmental Advocacy class Nick Kruger said he supports what the Defenders are doing, and that all they need is more attention from the public.
“I think it’s a really good organization, and I think that they just don’t have enough publicity to have enough of an impact to stop the logging,” Kruger said.
Another student in the class Zach Norton said that he supports the Defenders because of his love of the outdoors.
“I’ve always had an interest for the forest and hiking, and I think it’s very important to have recreational trails that aren’t disturbed from cutting,” Norton said. “I think they’re doing a really good thing in trying to save trails and keep the natural look to them. I just think they need to get the word out.”
Keene Cannabis Coalition for legalization
The Keene Cannabis Coalition, or KCC, was founded in 2014 by KSC alumnus Scott Dyer.
Dyer said that the organization stands for the legalization of marijuana, and to remove negative connotations associated with it. “We saw [legalization] popping up all over the country, in Colorado, and in Washington D.C., so we thought why not make it that much easier for us to do in New Hampshire,” Dyer said.
Current KCC president Dylan Renner said that they stand for much more than just recreational marijuana use, including medicinal use and how the hemp industry can benefit the environment.
“We stand for educating the public, mostly people around campus, who don’t really know what they’re rights are or what to do in certain situations involving marijuana,” Renner said.
In addition to legalizing marijuana, Dyer and Renner both said that they believe that activism overall is important for students to participate in.
“It means people coming together for a similar cause, and working together to accomplish a certain goal,” Dyer said.
“We’re trying to develop our own voice, and our own beliefs and thoughts. I think that activism is a way to help that, and help solidify your opinion on certain topics and things happening in the world that need to be changed,” Renner said. “I think it helps you develop your own voice and your own kind of self.”
For those interested in participating in KCC, meetings are held on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in the Student Center Atrium.
NextGen Climate collaborates with Million Student March
NextGen Climate is an organization focused on environmental issues.
KSC alumnus and regional field director for NextGen in Keene Brian Rodgers said that they are working to make climate change a priority in the world of politics. “[We] try and create intentional cultures for students to understand that climate change exists,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers graduated from KSC last year, and said that during his time as a student he founded the Students for Environmental Education Development and Success club, as well as worked as an intern for NextGen.
He said that it was these experiences that lead him to environmental advocacy.
“I kind of realized the lack of involvement that I myself was guilty of and a lot of students I know kind of fall into the same fate,” Rodgers said. “I really felt that I was put into a better particular situation where I could increase the amount of activism on campus so I took this job.”
Through NextGen Climate, Rodgers said that he was able to really understand the importance of student activism.
“No change is ever going to come unless people can feel solidarity together,” Rodgers said. “Anyone that’s really wanting to facilitate change on a college campus needs to understand the responsibility of not just talking to the same group…you really need to work at the hearts and minds of the community rather than just talking to the same people.”
NextGen Climate is always accepting volunteers, and there are a number of internship opportunities for students as well. Anyone interested can contact Brian Rodgers at email@example.com.
Rodgers also collaborated with students on the recent Million Student March held earlier in November.
According to studentmarch.org, the Million Student March is a student-run movement to advocate for tuition-free public college, eliminating student debt, and raising the minimum wage for student workers to 15 dollars.
KSC senior Jessica L’hommedieu had the idea to bring the march to Keene State’s campus after having her own personal issues with student loans before this year.
“If you don’t agree with something, don’t complain about it, go out there and change it. Nothing will get better unless you’re willing to be the change,” L’hommedieu said.
KSC alumnus and regional field director for NextGen Climate Brian Rodgers was involved in helping plan the march as well.
He said that while he did help with advice, the march was organized entirely by students.
“The entirety of it was really driven by students which I thought was really cool and powerful to see,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers said that student debt makes it challenging for students to focus on other aspects of activism.
“It’s really difficult for students to focus on social justice, gender equality and climate action when we are literally crippled by debt after we get out of school. Many times, it’s the case where students can’t accept job opportunities that could really have fulfilling value to them and change the world,” Rodgers said.
While the march happened earlier in November, L’hommedieu said that she hopes to continue the movement by writing letters to representatives and continuing to advocate for these changes. Anyone interested in joining the movement can join the Million Student March: Keene State College public Facebook page.
Devon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org