We actually shouldn’t care about local college students

Dozens of mainstream writers and pundits have carved out a career obsessing over the activity of kids at tiny liberal arts schools. It’s a joke.

Katelyn Burns
4 min readOct 30, 2021


Photo by David Mulder/Flickr. License.

My dad sometimes tells me a story about his time in college in the 60’s during the Vietnam War. He says that sometimes he would go to class and there’d be a sign on the door saying that the professor had cancelled class to go attend an anti-war protest. The sign, he noted, encouraged all the students to attend the protest.

Eventually my dad went to the dean to complain, providing an itemized list of cancelled classes and demanding a refund for the classes he’d been forced to meet. Shortly after, a new policy was introduced at his school saying professors couldn’t cancel class to attend a protest.

These days, an incident like this would likely go hyper-viral in today’s social media environment. The cancellation of classes as a scandal would be the perfect mix of contemptible student ambitions and institutional arrogance to grab the attention of the dozens of writers and pundits who now dedicate themselves to trolling for campus outrage bait.

The campus culture war has become a a full fledged beat, with such titans of of the journalism game such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, and the New Yorker each having a dedicated campus culture reporter and every year news publications allocate massive resources to tracking down the local machinations of liberal college students.

But why do we really care? Ultimately, students themselves don’t really matter.

Students, largely, don’t have any real power. Recent history has shown that students are not a reliable voting bloc, and politicians largely ignore their demands. They don’t, generally, have a ton of economic power either. So why do so many well esteemed news organizations devote so much of their precious few newsroom dollars to covering, and often exaggerating the happenings of students?

The answer is pretty simple: people read the stories. News of a particularly outrageous bit of student liberalism hits all the touchstones needed to scare an older, wealthier readership demographic.



Katelyn Burns

Political journalist. The first openly trans Capitol Hill reporter in US history. Writing about more than just trans issues. Follow her on Twitter @transscribe