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.
10 responses to “On Protests”
[…] the previous arrangement of getting its funding through the Student Union F-Board. Looks like those Student Union protests had an effect after all. I wonder what behind-the-scenes work went into […]
Sorry, I hit submit before I was done. To finish my comment, I think the only place where you and I would differ is that while I disagree with the way the administration handled the issue, I don’t personally consider it a topic weighty enough that I would devote time or energy in fervent protest over. I think to vilify the administration as being fundamentally opposed to giving us any say in our well-being is an overreaction to a relatively minor and unrepresentative issue. I can understand how you might disagree, and I wouldn’t find you misguided if you choose to protest the administration. However, I don’t think my stance is near worthy of your shivering.
Tim says, “Adam, the ease with which you continuously state that students shouldn’t have control within the power structure of the university makes me shiver.”
I think you need some perspective here Tim. In a nation with 30 million people without health insurance, over 1 million children who live in homelessness, and a Constitution whose provisions are being trampled upon with greater and greater frequency, the thing that makes you shiver are my comments on the workings of a university? The fact that we both read this website suggests to me that we’re both on the same side regarding these problems. I think your indignation could be better directed than at me.
Regarding your arguments, I never once said that students shouldn’t have any control in the university. I think I was very clear about my stance when I said “if [Jean Eddy] doesn’t have a argument compelling enough to justify defying the Student Union, she is doing us a disservice by insisting that her plan go forward”. I do want to leave the door open to the possibility that there is a reason beyond the will of the students motivating her actions, but I still think she should be more open in letting us know about that.
Well put, Tim. I like your style.
Adam, the ease with which you continuously state that students shouldn’t have control within the power structure of the university makes me shiver. However, I will avoid the representative democracy argument by saying that maybe you are right, and maybe it wouldn’t be for the overall good of the university because students aren’t educated enough to make fiscal decisions that will benefit the university. But as Sahar just pointed out, what about the well being of the students? Shouldn’t we be allowed to make their own decisions and discover the consequences? (To an extent. Obviously not in terms of large amounts of money that could have an effect years down the road.) What about Gordie’s idea of a university government composed equally of students, faculty, and administrators, which has the power to make decisions about the university’s actions?
Thanks for the kudos!
I’ll have more to say later, but here’s a taste of what I’m thinking:
Yes, but is this a good thing? How about when it comes to making a decision on the overall well-being of the students?
The way I see it, here’s an issue that quite clearly only affects students, since Student Activities is wholly focused on students, and so is F-Board, and so is the Student Union.
In this case, when the students make their position quite clear, the administration should listen to them. And by going forward with this, the administration is quite clearly saying that it puts its interests -or its conception of the Student’s interests- over the clearly expressed will of the Student Body. That is an ugly, anti-democratic, elitist position to take.
Like I said in my previous post, I don’t honestly believe that the F-Board exists only for its own good. In fact, from everything I’ve heard, it did a good job of providing fair dispersement of funds. However, the fact that it was allowed to make financing decisions while permitting no transparency strikes me as just as worthy of outcry as the department’s recent actions. While I personally am not interested in taking up either cause, it’s something to think about for those who will protest on principle alone. As for your comment about my personal experience, I would submit that the multiple main se theater productions I’ve been involved with both as an actor and as a production staff member provide me with more than enough insight into the campus’s financial system. Among the renting of the theater for the show, the renting of props from the Theater Department, and the purchasing of props, costumes, and material for scenery, these shows can become rather high budget. You can be sure that if I felt that the Brandeis Ensemble Theater’s ability to secure adequate funding was in jeopardy from either the administration or the F-Board, I would take serious action to ensure fairness. However, regardless of how the financing situation plays out, I don’t see that as a possibility.
Sahar makes some very good points on the nature of the controversy, and I find myself agreeing with a lot of what he says. However, 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 certainly does not give them the authority to strip us of our rights, but it does mean that when it comes to making a decision on the overall well-being of the university, the administration has the final say. However, at the very least, Eddy should have been more open on how exactly her change of policy affects Brandeis’s well-being enough to justify defying the Student Union. While I think that organized protests represent an overreaction to the magnitude of this problem, I completely agree that Eddy could have handled the situation better. In fact, I will go so far to say that if she doesn’t have a argument compelling enough to justify defying the Student Union, she is doing us a disservice by insisting that her plan go forward, even if I do agree with it on merit.
[…] My thoughts on the F-Board Protest December 15, 2007 5:14 pm Sahar Democracy, Sahar There’s been a lot of discussion about the merits and purpose of the protest, both on and off-line. Here’s how I feel: Regarding what Loki said here: […]
The F-board, while not a perfect organization, is hardly the cabal-like overseer and dispenser of money for its own ends that you characterize it as. I know you yourself are not in many clubs which must seek money from the F-Board in order to carry out their activities. However, as the next treasurer for DFA and a member of several other organizations, I can tell you the F-Board is a fairly even-handed organization, one which, most importantly, is run entirely by students. If you or others believe the F-board to be tinged with this dark corruption, the solution is not for the Administration to make a unilateral decision to simply remove the funds from student control. Rather, what we must do, if we deem it necessary, is reform the system yet keep our money within our hands.
You are right when you say this issue is mostly one of principle. I can hardly see Brandeis falling to pieces because of the transfer of money. However, as I stated in my post, it is the principle of making an up-in-the-clouds decision to simply snatch money from student control and put it in the hands of administrators which concerns me. I am sure Jean Eddy had the best of motives in mind. But we need to make our voices heard so that she knows that, regardless of intention, she made a mistake.
I’m sorry, but this just isn’t an issue I can drum up any passion about. The problem is that the F-Board had never given me any reason to trust them over the administration. They have refused to disclose the potential conflicts of interest that each member has in allocating funds, and as such, I have no reason to believe that they are acting upon anything besides their personal desires. While I don’t honestly believe that the F-Board exists only for the good of it’s own members, I’ll take the unbiased Department of Student Activities any day. In addition, I think that an official University department will always have more pull than a student organization in being able to put together complex events that will be of interest to me as a student.
It strikes me that the current battle over the issue is one of principle, not pragmatics, and that we should at least consider the reasons stated by the Department for making this change. It’s obviously not just a power struggle; does anyone honestly believe that Jean Eddy feels any more empowered by becoming the guardian of a college’s event fund? I actually think her stated reasons for making the switch make a lot of sense, and that the harsh outcry, built on the lofty notion of student rights, may be overlooking the possibility that we as a student body are being better served by this policy.
I certainly believe that protest is important on a college campus (or anywhere else for that matter), and I would be the first to brave the cold (with or without doughnuts) if I honestly felt my rights were being infringed upon. But to criticize the student body for apathy neglects the possibility that this is an issue that deserves no better.