Opinion | Rebel while you still can

By Paul Beer, Staff Columnist

“It’s time to join the real world,” parents of graduating students always mutter. To them, the “real world” means things like doing your taxes, voting for Republicans because of said taxes and then selling your soul to a finance company downtown. They say it’s time to drop the protests, drop the activism and give up on making a real difference in the world because you’re graduated now. Your adult career is about to begin, and bills still need to be paid. 

What a load of bullshit. Nothing about graduation or “joining the real world” means that you need to give up on your activism or your passion for change. 

When I joined the opinions desk this fall as a senior, I mostly wanted to just get my thoughts out and get some good writing published under my name so that I have something to show for my years as a writing major. Coming out of COVID-19 shakeups, I had no clubs to call my own, and I realized my college career was nearing a close without my having participated in something that I really cared about, something greater than me. 

Writing social and political opinions was one of the most purposeful rebellions of my life. As you’ll probably read from other opinion columnists who are graduating, writing is never about how many people you reach, but rather the fact that you have reached someone. Every article is written with the intention and the hope that someone is inspired to do something — something meaningful for themselves or their community.

Each piece of political writing I’ve done — from larger takes on the Ukraine war to smaller gripes with the Pitt administration — is an act of rebellion. With graduation, though, that rebellion is supposed to come to an end. Every protest you attend, every angry Tweet or Instagram post you send out and every conversation you have with a classmate urging them to care is an act of rebellion. And no, graduation is not the end point for your activism. 

College is the perfect place to practice your social activism. The culture is overwhelmingly safe for opinions and liberal in nature. Everyone is constantly engaging with the high-level thinking or theory behind important social causes — and sometimes living them. This is why so many take advantage in joining and organizing protests about every cause that matters to them. It’s safe to do that here. 

Translating rebellion into post-graduate life may become tricky, but it’s worth it. Social activism is still seen as something taboo for the majority of the capitalist world, especially when it conflicts with corporate success. Companies drop millions of dollars on anti-worker causes like union busting for a reason. If you’re concerned about your place in the workforce post-graduation, you’re not alone. Don’t be shy, put your best activist foot forward and push on for the causes that benefit you and the people around you. The income gap is only widening — we have nothing to lose.

For current Pitt students — from first-year to senior — join the fight while you still can. Don’t wait for the right moment to strike. You are fearless. There are so many causes right here at Pitt that need your help. Our new chancellor leaves behind a complicated legacy at the University of Minnesota and now posts one of the largest salaries of any Pitt administrator. Our ENS system is struggling. Sexual violence prevention is still not perfect. People threatening the existence of others are welcome on our campus. Look around. Ask the people around you — the people you love — what about our campus or world hurts them, and fight with them. Fight like hell. 

If you’re not sure where to begin or feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done, again, you’re not alone. Try working with different organizations or attending different events and see what you are most passionate about. Find people that encourage you to be your best self, and work with them to make actionable change. If you burn out, take the time you need to take care of yourself. 

Please, do not give up.

Thank you to The Pitt News for giving me a place to rant about all the little things that matter to me. Sharing an opinion is free and welcome in the world, but having a real platform to do it is a blessing. Thank you to all the editors for making sure our work is the best it can be, with a special thank you to Rachel Soloff and Grace DeLallo, the opinion editors — and thanks for letting me turn in so many articles late!


Paul Beer writes about political affairs and reads too many album reviews. Write back to him (or send music recommendations) at [email protected].