The Kansas City Chiefs won 2020 Super Bowl 31-20. It was a moment of ecstasy for myself — I may or may not have cried a lot — and many other students that had waited their whole lives to see their favorite sports team reach the pinnacle. The Chiefs made plans for a parade Feb. 5, and students subsequently started sharing and signing a change.org petition to try and get Northwest to cancel classes.
This change.org petition represents the muddying of a platform that was once used for powerful petitions for powerful reasons.
“Cancel Classes Wednesday at Northwest” was the infamous petition. It’s nice that the title got right to the point. While well-intentioned, this petition and others like it represent a weird and annoying reality that the most trivial things can become change.org petitions, and it needs to stop.
As of Feb. 8, the petition had 3,417 signatures. For context, Northwest has 7,104 students enrolled, but of course, not all who signed the petition are students. The official Northwest Twitter account then sent out a tweet explaining that Northwest will be open, which was wholly unnecessary on their part. Students subsequently got into Northwest’s mentions and voiced their frustration; some took it too far, as expected, and others responded cordially but clearly upset.
The University didn’t make a decision to cancel classes for a parade for a professional sports team based on an online petition — big shocker on that one. The bottom line: Northwest stayed open because it is an institution meant for education, and administration believes that the best way to educate students is to actually have class on days without inclement weather.
Some petitions filled out on the platform have been over serious issues and sparked real change. There was a change.org petition in 2012 that led to Seventeen Magazine pledging to no longer photoshop their models, thus helping encourage positive body image.
A more recent example is the case of death row inmate Rodney Reed, whom evidence shows was wrongfully convicted of a 1998 rape and murder of a Stacey Stites. Reed’s case garnered national attention in part because of a change.org petition with nearly 750,000 signatures stating that Reed was wrongfully convicted. Many rallied around Reed, including Kim Kardashian, and Reed was granted a stay of execution and is awaiting a new trial.
Obviously canceling classes is not on the same level as trying to get an inmate off of death row, and change.org petitions do not always need to be as serious, but muddying the platform with somewhat useless petitions does nothing to help the minor issue they are created to solve.
Most students, if honest with themselves, knew that if Northwest was going to cancel classes it wasn’t going to happen because of a petition. The petition did about as much as those people that tweet at UPD to cancel classes every time they see a snowflake does.
Change.org can have a real impact, but unnecessary petitions over minor issues weaken the power and purpose of the platform and cause people grief when the petition inevitably fails.