A few weeks ago, you’ll remember the Administration decided it would be a wonderful idea to remove $210,000 from student control under the F-Board and instead allocate it to the Department of Student Activities. Quite a few people, myself included, were a bit upset. A university is built upon the students – we are the sole most important force, its future representatives in the world. It is we who should be the primary deciders of our institution’s philosophy and policy. We therefore have a right to be outraged when a hefty chunk of the already meager financial resources under our control is suddenly snatched by a hand in the clouds. The principle of the thing – that we are neither fiscally responsible nor wise enough to manage money concerning our extracurricular involvement – is grounds enough for protest.
And so we did. On December 6, a substantial group of students (my eye for figures is notoriously bad, but I would say the number was… 70? 100?) gathered outside the Bernstein-Marcus Administration building and marched through its halls, chanted a few times, and ate a good deal of donuts and hot chocolate. Now, I certainly don’t have anything against hot chocolate – that stuff’s delicious. But I think the whole vibe of the thing – the snacks, the protest almost solely for the sake of the experience – was fundamentally flawed.
A protest is a deeply symbolic act. Its symbolism – that masses of people are willing to get up and spend their time marching in defense of a cause they care about – is the entire point. And I think that idea was missed here, for several reasons. First of all, the event was only organized with the consent and oversight of the Administration itself, the very institution whose policies we were supposedly acting out against. What does this say about the commitment to student independence we were supposedly trying to defend? We apparently only care enough about our rights to organize one event for which we must seek official approval? We are only able to do so by enticing attendees with donuts and hot drinks from Dunkin Donuts? After saying a few words and disbanding, we pat ourselves on the back and don’t plan any follow-up action or demonstration. This is a tepid response at best.
What we need to be doing is continuing to protest until we are actually listened to, not patronizingly tolerated. We should have been showing up on the lawn of Bernstein-Marcus every day until we received some serious response. Instead, the message we sent was that we do not care enough about our rights to actively demonstrate for them, and will only show up to one officially approved march if we are bribed with luxuries, no matter how tasty they may be.
Martin Luther King said that “he who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” While a transfer of funds is not the worst of evils, it is certainly something harmful to our student independence. To combat it, we must continue to protest. Once was not enough. It is regrettable that we have let so much time pass, regrettable that we will not really be able to continue action until after winter break. But, if we wish to be taken seriously, we must continue organizing protests, even without administrative consent. We must not stop until our voices are heard.