Feiger: The Power of Collective Voice
By Leah Feiger, Staff Columnist
Published on Thursday, May 3, 2012
Jennifer Tyrrel is an engaged, passionate and caring mother. She was the den leader of her son’s Tiger Cub Scout group and performed community service work with the boys for soup kitchens, the local Salvation Army and local environmental groups. Her Boy Scouts were compassionate, resourceful, respectful and courageous, earning badges and working hard to exercise the 12 core values of scouting.
Despite all the great work she did with the boys, the Boy Scouts Association of America asked Tyrrel to leave her position as den leader because she is a lesbian. Tyrrel was justifiably outraged, and took her plight to Change.org, a forum where millions of viewers sign petitions to mobilize support for a variety of causes in hopes of encouraging change. The success of this website in creating real change exemplifies the power of the collective voice in addressing serious issues.
Change.org speaks to the collective power of the people as well as the power of passion, dedication and grassroots activism. This past December, environmentalist Stiv Wilson was able to accumulate over 100,000 signatures on the website to convince the National Park Service to re-institute the plastic water bottle ban in the Grand Canyon and ignore the pressures from the Coca-Cola Company. In a similar vein, a fourth grade class petitioned Universal Studios to stay true to the green message of “The Lorax.” After 56,000 people signed their petition, the studio agreed to include environmental messages from the book on its website. The San Francisco Giants baseball team was the first sports team to create an “It Gets Better” video against gay bullying after Giants fan Sean Chapin created a petition signed by over 6,000 fans.
In the past couple of weeks, over 260,000 people have exercised their voice on Change.org and signed Tyrrel’s petition asking the Boy Scouts of America to reinstate her as a den leader and end exclusionary policies based on sexual orientation. This outcry of public support all stemmed from Tyrrel’s ability to publicly generate awareness in a productive and widespread manner. Tyrrel used her voice to empower not just herself, but also countless others in a fight for just and necessary change.
The plight of those trying to exercise their voices and truly effect change through activism can be felt here in Hanover as well. Dartmouth can be a difficult place for students to express their voices loudly and effectively. In the past few weeks, however, there has been a concerted effort to solicit student voices and allow the College administration to hear them.
The new Google Moderator forum set up by Palaeopitus Senior Society is an innovative new tool that can deliver questions directly from the student body to the administration. The forum has promise to be wildly successful, with over 800 students participating by asking and voting on meaningful questions (“Palaeopitus seeks more prominent campus role,” May 1). More students need to participate in this forum in order to achieve power in numbers and demonstrate our dedication to the well-being of this campus.
I applaud Palaeopitus for its creative approach to addressing the frequent disconnect between the student body and the administration. Time will tell if these student questions and concerns are actually answered and addressed, but no longer can the administration say that it doesn’t know what the students want and need. It can no longer pretend not to hear us. This increased and innovative communication could lead to the change that the administration has promised in various emails and assurances to the student body.
We often take our voices for granted, choosing not to speak up because it’s easier to stay quiet and mumble our complaints behind closed doors. While a few key campus figures have spoken up against the administration’s policies, the Palaeopitus forum is a chance for this campus to unite and bring our voices together.
Jennifer Tyrell is taking advantage of the productive and necessary space Change.org has to offer her cause. We need to realize that Dartmouth’s Google Moderator forum possesses similar potential to address campus issues in an effective manner. Let us work to make this collaboration a reality. Real change comes from real people with real voices, made all the more powerful by joining together in solidarity. If we support each other, joining our voices as one, we might just finally achieve the change we need.