ASOSU demonstrates in the MU Quad as part of National Walkout Day

The Associated Students of Oregon State University used balloons to draw attention to the issue of school shootings. Members of the student government provided gun locks, information on mental health resources and legislative efforts to prevent gun violence.

Display commemorates victims of school shootings

The 438 students who have been shot in school shootings since 2012 were remembered today in the Memorial Union Quad in conjunction with the National Walkout Day. In the center of the quad, 138 black balloons represented the number of people who specifically were killed in shootings during the same time period.

Hosted by the Associated Students of Oregon State University, the OSU event Now Is The Time, was dedicated to educating the community and raising awareness on the topic of gun violence in schools, according to the Facebook event.

“We wanted to represent the magnitude of this issue, of school shootings in the U.S. and we were trying to do it in a visual way that would be really easy for students to see and that would make it apparent, how big of an issue this is,” said Ryan Khalife, an ASOSU senator.

Fellow ASOSU Sen. Logan Adams said the event was created as a part of the student government Senate Outreach Committee, including students Ryan Khalife, Makenna Elias and Anna Liu, as a way to connect students to the voice they have through student government.

Booths set up in the quad included information about the March For Our Lives event taking place on Saturday, March 24 and supplies to make posters to participate in the march. Counseling and Psychological Services provided information on how they can assist individuals who feel mentally affected by the event or overall topic of gun violence. Additionally, students were able to learn more about current legislation regarding gun laws and how to contact local representatives to make their voices heard.

“We are a student government organization so we wanted to make sure that we were communicating with students in the most effective way possible in order to get the word out,” Adams said.

The topic of gun violence is an important issue for students, Adams said. Furthermore, many individuals in Oregon have been directly affected by the topic due to instances of mass shootings in the state.

“We felt it was important to put on this event to show, first of all, just to show solidarity with high school students because it’s National Walkout Day, but also because this is an issue that is important to college students as well,” Adams said.

Makenna Elias, an ASOSU senator and coordinator of the event, chose to put on this event because of the topic of gun violence in schools is prevalent and many individuals want to make their voices heard.

“We went through a bunch of different ideas until we stuck on balloons. We wanted to make a statement, we wanted to really get the conversation rolling, people to talk about it. I believe that’s kinda what we’re doing,” Elias said. “We want people to be aware of what’s happening around them and that they have the voices.”

Inez Hernandez, a pre-computer science student, said she would not have come over to check out the booths if it weren’t for the balloons. At first glance, she associated the balloons with happiness, rather than representations of student deaths due to gun violence. The visual of the balloons made the number of victims not just a statistic, but a reality, Hernandez added.

“There’s a lot of things being said in social media and said in the news that don’t actually translate to what people feel of what they want to happen, so a lot of people get a lot of mixed information,” Hernandez said. “This shows it’s not like ‘oh it’s because I wanna have a gun’ it’s like these are lives that you’re seeing so that makes a difference because you’re seeing how many have been killed.”

It is important to hold events like Now Is The Time in order to provide platforms for voices on the opposite side of the spectrum as individuals in the business of selling firearms, said John Selker, a distinguished professor of biological and ecological engineering.

“I think this is delightful,” Selker said. “It’s really the first time this campus has done any meaningful response to the plague of violence that seems to be associated with educational institutions. I think it builds community, I think it is critical to establishing Oregon State University as a player and a partner in this country-wide struggle. It’s a really important statement that these students have made in a very aesthetic and moving kind of installation.”

Selker said building consensus among students at such a large institution is a good way to address social need. When a significant amount of time passes without creating conversation regarding topics such as gun violence, a democratic society is failing at the hands of its people, Selker added.

“If we are to have a functioning democracy, we need to have these conversations and we take responsibility for them and otherwise we’re kind of a bought-and-paid-for society,” Selker said.

Gun violence in school is an issue that directly affects students of all ages across the nation, Elias said.

“We are the ones taking charge and saying ‘no, no more’, now is the time to talk about this, now is the time to put a stop to all the endless violence that keeps happening,” Elias said. “We’re the ones who are getting targeted and we don’t want to live in fear of coming to class or fearing that this day might be our last.”

Elias said people who have walked by the booths and balloons have thanked the coordinators for holding this event. Elias is hopeful for a positive effect among students and to raise more awareness about gun violence.

By using the balloons as a display for lives lost in school shootings, individuals who view the display will be affected, Hernandez said.

“I think if they don’t stop and talk to somebody, they’re gonna think it’s a really happy event but I think seeing it makes it a lot easier to actually talk about this,” Hernandez said. “Seeing the balloons you’re happy, but once you know what’s going on and you can take it in a lot easier versus somebody just telling you how many people died.”

March for Our Lives, a peaceful protest regarding gun policies in the U.S. and the epidemic of school shootings, will occur Saturday, March 24 in downtown Corvallis. The event is open to all who want to participate.

“I think (March for Our Lives) is a great event,” Hernandez said. “I think it’s important to make awareness and its important to make noise about things like this because otherwise it’s like ‘oh, well nobody actually cares’.”

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