In the comment thread of Loki’s “On Campus Protests” Adam Hughes, a commenter, said this:
I think it is important to note that a university is not and should not be a representative democracy. For better or worse, the power hierarchy puts the students below the administration.
This is an important issue that I think we really should address.
No one is proposing that we set up a full-fledged constitutional representative democracy here at Brandeis. However, the spirit of liberal democracy contains much more than the right to vote. Democracy, frankly, is a short-hand for a whole host of values, such as freedom of expression, privacy rights, a civic society, egalitarianism, rule of law, and, most importantly to this discussion, self-determination.
If the administration decided to restructure the Student Activities funding mechanism in a vacuum, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But when the F-Board constitution specifically says that Student Activities receives its funds from F-Board, and the University runs roughshod over that document, I get worried. Most importantly, when the Student Body (as expressed by the Student Union) unequivocally rejects this proposal, and the University doesn’t back down, it unveils many problems.
Simply put, the University has a history of ignoring student wishes and imposing its own agenda. I wouldn’t even necessarily call this a malicious move: it seems to me, at this time, that the University considers students’ opinions as an afterthought, or not at all.
The Administration decided to unilaterally change the funding mechanism. They didn’t wait for student input – it didn’t matter to them. That’s worrying.
With this move, they showed that the F-Board constitution means nothing to them. They showed that they don’t believe in Student Autonomy.
Now, nowhere does it say that Jehuda and all must legally give one toenail-clipping’s worth of thought to student prerogative and student autonomy. That doesn’t mean they should.
The University should respect our opinions, because it “rules” this campus and the mandate to rule comes from the consent of the governed. They can run this place like a dictatorship.
What stops them? The idea that dictatorship is bad.
What animates me? The idea that self-rule is good. The idea that, when expressed clearly, the will of the students should prevail in issues wholly affecting them. The idea that it is moral and just that the University respect the Student Union’s internal laws and regulations in cases that affect the Student Body and only the Student Body.
Beyond that, I feel that the Student Union is a Union . And as a Union we have of course every right to protest decisions that we disagree with. And putting aside all other considerations, we have every right to act together to convince the powers that be to reverse their actions.
Even if an organization that isn’t the Student Union protests a campus-wide issue, more power to them! Everyone has a right to assembly, to protest, to petition. Everyone has a right to express grievances; everyone has a right to have their voice heard. Protests are good! Civic engagement is good! Apathy is the death of Democracy.
Even is we put all those arguments aside, here’s the essential truth as I see it:
This is an issue that is 100% about undergraduate students. It only affects students: F-board, Student Activities, and the Student Union all have as their goal the betterment and advancement of undergraduate quality of life.
Therefore, by ignoring the unanimous will the Student Union, the Administration is quite clearly saying that it puts its interests -or its conception of the students’ interests- over the clearly expressed interests of the Student Body. It believes it can represent us and lead us better than the very people we chose for that job. That is an ugly, authoritarian, elitist argument that has no place in an institution that purports to carry the legacy of Louis Brandeis.