CWRU students: then and now

Abigail Assmus

World War I ended on Nov. 11, 95 years ago. There are reminders of this all over campus with the war memorial being put back up behind Amasa Stone Chapel and the exhibit at Kelvin Smith Library Special Collections.

This semester, I am immersed in the war as I conduct research for my senior capstone with the history department. As part of my research, I have been at the university archives looking at student publications from the war to see what student opinions were. As I looked through their newspaper, The Reserve Weekly, I was surprised by the lack of opinion about the international crisis before the war and when it started in 1914. I was even more shocked when there were not any opinion pieces about the war when the United States entered in 1917.

The more I read, the more I realized how similar these students are to Case Western Reserve University students today. When I look through The Observer, there are no articles about current international topics like ISIS or anything about the Middle East. True, there are important issues like what the role of race is on our campus, but where are the articles about Russia and the Ukraine, or the recent midterm elections and how they impact us? It is not just the lack of current news in the student newspaper; I barely overhear any discussion of current events among students during my downtime or in classes where it could easily come up.

In an article from The Reserve Weekly from March 1919, only four months after the war ended, a student from Adelbert College wrote: “It is an alarming fact that many students at Adelbert have little knowledge of the important events which are occurring both within our borders and on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.”

So my question is, why is student knowledge about national and international events the same as students’ from 95 years ago? I am guilty of being ignorant at times to the world around me as well. It can be hard to pay attention to the news when there are exams to study for and papers to research and write. But I believe that it is important to not only be aware of events going on in our small campus, but in the world as well.

We will all graduate eventually, some of us sooner than others as the fall semester comes to a close. Discussion about important national and international news should have a higher presence on our campus so there can be more education about the world around us, not just our campus. We are an important part of campus, but we are also a part of the world. In a world where we have instant access to information on smart phones, it is hard to believe that we are just as oblivious to world events and voicing our opinions about them as Adelbert College students were 95 years ago. I hope that students at CWRU are reminded of how global events can impact small areas like ours during this year, the centennial of the beginning of WWI in Europe, and see how much global and national events today can impact life at Case now and life after graduation.

Abigail is a senior History and English major. She is looking forward to the semester break so she can binge on Netflix all night and not feel guilty about it.