Most college protesters are well adjusted, socially active
Public release date: 20-Aug-2001
Contact: Paul Blaum email@example.com 814-865-9481 Penn State
Anaheim, Calif. -- Rather than being misfits, college protesters are more
likely to be socially active on campus and enjoy a wide circle of friends
and acquaintances, a Penn State researcher says.
These same peer networks seem to have a more profound influence on student
activism than political ideology or any deep dissatisfaction with the
prevailing government, says Dr. Byeong Chul (Ben) Park, assistant professor
of human development and family studies at Penn State's DuBois Campus.
"We found a strong relationship between levels of extracurricular
involvement and student activism," he told attendees today (Aug. 19) of the
annual conference of the American Sociological Association. "It seems that
those students who had adjusted well to college life through engagement in
campus activities were more likely to participate in protest movements than
those who had not."
This profile of student activists is in contrast to a perception held by
much of the public that protesters are loners and rebels alienated from the
mainstream of college students, according to Park.
Park's findings were presented in the paper, "When Children Protest on the
Street: Generation Units and Youth Activism." His data are taken from 1,111
self-administered questionnaires collected at 10 Korean universities in 1993
by the East-West Cultural Study Center at Hannam University, Taejon, Korea.
"Each new generation brings to college its own frame of reference, which
promotes common political attitudes and beliefs different from those of
preceding generations. This collective mindset appears to be a factor in
motivating student political activism," says Park. "The fact that each new
cohort of student has its own interpretation of socio-political issues often
leads to dissatisfaction with the government or administration in power."
However, those students who protest are those who are active in the
institutional life of the college and well established in the student
community. A wide communication network among student peers help to mold
their political leanings and create a group solidarity that allows them to
make their voices heard, he adds. Even students with no particular
ideological bent or sense of disgruntlement with the government can become
politicized by active involvement in on-campus rallies and demonstrations.
"This seems to indicate that students join protest movements largely because
of peer group expectations rather than political learning at home," Park
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