We’ve all seen the horror stories on social media of campus activists caught screeching, behaving like they have no sense, or just making a fool out of themselves or their movement. This happens on both sides of the political spectrum. Unfortunately, when it does, it makes all campus activists look bad. It’s hard to get people to sign your petition, come to an event, or imply like your club’s page on Facebook if they think that you, your organization, or your movement are off the rails.
Here are five things NOT to do as a campus activist, especially in the conservative movement, because we all want to be taken seriously and actually make a difference, not just a lot of noise.
Do NOT just bring in controversial speakers
Alright, here comes the controversy right off the top. Most campus political groups cannot afford to bring in only big-name, expensive, controversial speakers and thrive. These speakers cost a lot of money. In fact, they can cost your group a lot in the eyes of the school if you are seen as simply seeking to rile people up, waste money on big security needs, et cetera. That doesn’t mean you can’t share your view point on campus. It’s not about censorship, it’s about being strategic. Sure, bringing a big name speaker and attracting a huge riot crowd of protesters may get you some attention in the short-term, but it may burn a lot of bridges. Supplement “controversial” or “big” speakers with intellectuals, local leaders, elected officials, and people who can share your message in a different way than on your favorite cable news network. This will help your group live long beyond that one event, and you won’t blow all your funds on one day out of hundreds each school year.
Do NOT harass the other side or non-supporters
I know we all have different opinions, and that is often especially clear on college campuses. The bubble of these campuses often emboldens people to share their most extreme views. That’s not an excuse for you, or your group, to harass them. Find a way to engage meaningfully with different belief systems. Don’t mock people who disagree with you politically for their weight, their appearance, their religion, et cetera. It’s not going to get you very far in life. The most successful activists I’ve met have Democrat friends on campus, share ideas with other groups (including those on the same side of the aisle), and do non-ideological political events like voter registration drives with the other side. Learn how to engage politically without being mean, and you’ll go a lot further in life.
Do NOT rely on your campus to fund everything
Sure, we can all agree that unfortunately, campus student life groups don’t always play fair when allocating money to groups. It can suck to see the liberal group get more money than you. Don’t let that impact how you act. Learn how to fund-raise outside of the student financial committee. Apply for grants from outside groups. Learn how to do more with less, instead of just complaining about how you were robbed and doing nothing. Keep doing what you can and your student life group won’t be able to ignore you the next time around.
Do NOT sell any data to third parties
People put a lot of trust in student organizations, so don’t abuse that. If people sign up to receive emails from your club, don’t sell the information to political campaigns or other organizations.You don’t like getting emails you didn’t sign up for, and other people are in that same boat. You also shouldn’t sell information about the makeup of your group, voting records, et cetera.