This year was a tumultuous one right out of the gate, beginning with the Gulf War and then wrapping up with the fall of the Soviet Union. The Gulf War ramped up from Operation Desert Shield to Operation Desert Storm overnight in January when the Iraqis refused to leave Kuwait. Missile strikes began first from the air, followed by troops hitting the ground later in February, and finally a cease fire agreement in April; all broadcast 24/7 on CNN. With the end of the Cold War, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) officially collapsed into separate independent countries; and on December 25th, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president and the Soviet hammer flag flew for the final time over the Kremlin.
Other events that ensued included the video-recorded brutal police beating of Rodney King that would eventually lead to the L.A. riots; Nelson Mandela’s wife, Winnie, was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to six years in prison; the Dead Sea Scrolls were unveiled to the public; and Nirvana released their album, Nevermind, solidifying the grunge era and sparking flannel shirt sales. Also in major news and effectively changing the way information travels forever, Tim Berners-Lee officially launched the World Wide Web to the public and created the first website.
Amidst conflict and wars, it is no surprise that incoming college students often discussed politics. In fact, the CIRP Freshman Survey showed that over the previous year, 20.5% of incoming freshmen “frequently” and 52.8% “occasionally” discussed politics. Further, men were more likely to debate the issues than women with 23.9% of men compared to 17.6% of women “frequently” doing so. When looking at political affiliations, both sides equally discussed politics, with about three out of ten students identifying as conservative/far left (29.2%), and those identifying as liberal/far right (29.4%) reporting “frequently” talking about the issues.
Students who discussed politics more often were also more likely to believe that they can bring about societal change. The Freshman Survey asked incoming students if they agreed with the statement, “Realistically, an individual can do little to bring about changes in our society.” As an incoming class, just over a third (36.3%) of students “strongly disagreed” with this statement. However, when looking at the students who “frequently” discussed politics, about half (49.1%) of these students “strongly disagreed.” Comparatively, out of the students who didn’t discuss politics at all, only 28% “strongly disagreed” that there is little that individual people can do to bring about change. The impact of discussing and being aware of current affairs can be gleaned from this snapshot of the data showing the connection to social agency. Further, students who have “frequently” discussed politics on their way into college are more likely to view keeping up to date with political affairs as an “important” or “essential” future goal (70.4%).
Did you know? Three out of ten (31.1%) of incoming freshmen “frequently” typed their homework assignments.
Two thirds (66.2%) of incoming freshmen “occasionally,” and fewer than one out of ten (8.9%) students “frequently” felt depressed.
Just over a quarter (27.1%) of incoming freshmen “agreed strongly” that a national health care plan is needed to cover everybody’s medical costs.