For some recent Ohio University alumni, involvement in activism didn't stop when they graduated. Instead, it led to a continued involvement in local issues.
Ryant Taylor, a 2015 OU graduate, decided to return to Athens this semester after making a few stops around the country while trying to decide what was right for him.
“After I graduated, I moved to Seattle, and I sort of tried to make my life work out there,” he said. “The time there made me realize I wanted to do other things — traveling … making more important connections.”
Taylor said he is particularly interested in becoming involved with the local chapter of the International Socialist Organization, but environmentalism is also a key concern of his. He said many of his friends are involved in The Appalachian Ohio Group of the Sierra Club.
“Connecting with more marginalized students to see where their heads are and what they’re doing — I think (that’s) really important,” he said.
Former Student Senate Vice President Caitlyn McDaniel, who graduated in 2015, said the Athens activist community is often at a disadvantage because of student turnover.
“Athens always sort of falls prey to the four-year cycle of students,” McDaniel said. “Every four years, all the institutional knowledge that’s been built up disappears.”
She is also back in town and returning to the local activist scene, while pursuing her graduate degree. She said her senior year was a particularly strong year for student engagement, and the activist community has suffered since then.
“I think that people go home and they forget,” she said. “I know there are still people who have been organizing on campus, but the collective mindset that we were in as a campus kind of disappeared.”
McDaniel's senior year was the year of the "Bat Rally" on campus, when more than 100 students and faculty members rallied in front of OU President Roderick McDavis' former house at 29 Park Pl. The event was held in protest of the lease agreement for a $1.2 million home for McDavis and his wife, Deborah, after bats had invaded the Park Place residence.
McDaniel, who is becoming involved this semester with the local Sierra Club, said becoming involved in the community around Athens is important for the activists and students in general.
“It’s unfortunate, but there are very few people who stay (after graduation),” she said. “There’s this attitude toward Athens, (like) it’s a city that exists solely for the university and the students.”
Taylor also stressed the importance of the community around Athens.
“There are families who have grown up here,” he said. “Activism in this town has a lot of opportunity to connect with that. … University politics (are) important, but activism that expands beyond that is what there’s really opportunity for.”
Sasha Gough left OU before graduating, but decided to remain in Athens to continue her involvement with F--kRapeCulture, a group that combats sexual assault and rape culture at the university.
“A big reason I stayed in Athens is because I was so dedicated to the activism I was a part of,” she said. “I realized the way I was learning in school wasn’t for me, but … what I was learning in activism was priceless.”
Gough said it’s often hard for students to conceptualize the idea that there are things going on outside the university. She encouraged students to become involved, even if they may be on the fence.
“If you think that activism isn’t quite for you, or you’re afraid to get involved, the best place to get started is by just joining and educating yourself and then moving forward with that,” she said. “You do learn so much. That is something that will stick with you for the rest of your life.”