Chaos Attraction

On Protests

2010-03-04, 10:48 p.m.

Gabrielle Grow, who I'm guessing(?) is a UCD student:

"Marchers gathered on the school's Quad, fire alarms in Wellman (one of the school's largest classroom buildings) were pulled, and news cameras affixed themselves indefinitely to the scene. Protesters rallied against student fee increases as well as the homophobic and racially charged vandalism at the other UC campuses.

As a university system, we need to represent ourselves as a well thought out movement. We must protest without interrupting those who are still trying to learn. We must protest without overturning cars. Lawmakers will not take us seriously if this is the approach we take.

All that being said, I can't help but wonder whether or not the protests are constructive. What are the protesters accomplishing by pulling fire alarms in lecture halls? Pulling fire alarms or pounding on the walls of classrooms is not a constructive approach to solving the problem. Everyone has the right to protest, but at some point protesters disrupt other students' right to learn. It is unfair to both the teachers and the students of those classrooms who are trying to teach and learn. Education is pricey enough already, and by interrupting fellow students' classes, protesters are only helping those students lose money. In a condensed system like UC, students and teachers already only have ten weeks for classes. To steal already precious classroom time is more of a hindrance than a help to our State's already suffering education system.

Protesting is and has been a powerful means of fighting for what you believe in. Who knows where we would be without the brave efforts of the suffragettes or the civil rights movement. What UC needs is a protesting effort that is constructive, and that law makers will take seriously. A friend of mine told me that her mother took a furlough day at her job at UC Santa Cruz because cars are so frequently overturned during protests on campus."

I have a lot to say about protests. Unfortunately I am not in a situation right now where I can get away with talking about them on the Internet. Which is a shame, given the stories I've got (and photos). But I can't help but have a few general thoughts on the topic:

(a) If you genuinely want to speak to the chancellor about an issue (as opposed to just coming to the building and making a stink plus make a point that you "can't" see the chancellor), do not come up to the office building making noise, in packs, holding signs. Because guess what, the administration KNOWS YOU ARE COMING BEFORE YOU ARRIVE, and you will not get access to the chancellor. Or much of anybody beyond the cops. Why hasn't anyone ever tried a "stealth protest," where people don't publicize what they are going to do, show up quietly without any signs or shirts and with only 2-3 people at a time, and quietly go up to the chancellor's office? You'd have better odds, man. If you ever read Don't Care High by Gordon Korman, you'd know that short, polite, repeated protests make the authorities crazy. :)

(b) Specifically regarding today's protests, to the UCD folks: Hi, you are the closest campus to the capital. Why the hell aren't you protesting THERE? Nobody on the campus can do a darned thing for you, or has any power to. Go make a stink in front of actual authorities. Even the school newspaper pointed that one out. Yes, a lot of people went to the capital, AND YOU SHOULD HAVE JOINED THEM.

(c) As far as I have ever been able to tell with regards to this particular situation (as opposed to stuff like protesting racists, and btw, the sign campaign going on for that is a much better touch), the entire point of the protests is to make a stink in front of TV cameras and get your emotional ya-ya's out. And/or to punish "the administration", which really boils down to annoying the cops and any poor employees that happen to have not cut work that day.

(d) Realistically, no matter how much of a damn stink you make, that is not going to get the state more money so they will stop cutting. This is depressing, but true. TPTB are aware that fucking over education (but not prisons) is stupid, but given the continual lack of money, and idiots in power who won't compromise on anything short of the entire state government being nuked, your pointing out loudly that this is a bad idea is about as useful to your cause as sitting in front of your TV all day picking your nose is. They know it's stupid and they're gonna do it anyway. You can't make a difference in this one. Some causes can be helped via protest, but probably not this one. Sorry.

(d) This is why I kind of suspect that the secret point of these sorts of protests is to annoy and punish rather than bring about constructive change, because the latter isn't possible in the situation.

(e) This is kind of why I am not into the "get your ya-ya's out" protests. I'm generally sympathetic to whatever people are protesting about, but I also can't help but think that all they are accomplishing in the long run is getting on television or in a newspaper, getting an arrest record, finding a use for butcher paper and markers, getting to yell in public, and oh yeah: annoying the shit out of other people.

Other people who are just as screwed and affected by budget cuts as you are, btw. By making sure that people can't get to campus (seriously? blocking roads? FREEWAYS?!), by making sure that people can't take their classes/midterms (fire alarms?! breaking into classrooms and running up and down the halls screaming?!), by letting employees go home early or getting them out of work altogether (okay, so I don't have much objection to #3), by FLIPPING CARS (wtf? how's that helping anything?), and by giving the cops a whole lot of trouble that scares them and makes them bust out various unpleasant sorts of forces upon you, WHAT GOOD ARE YOU DOING WITH THIS? Do you people not think before you break out the bright ideas?

Of course not. Because the point to you is to scream and make a stink and get on television and to get your emotional rant on. I certainly hope you feel better now!

I repeat: the people that you are affecting and making trouble for are ones who didn't do anything to you. You are punishing people who don't deserve the punishment. Especially when you are interfering with the Very Expensive Classes that people are trying to take so they can graduate and get the hell out and stop paying tuition for. And that's just dumb and rude of you.

In short, when you are insisting on protesting (even if it's ultimately useless):

(a) Please think before you choose methods of protest. Do not pick methods that are designed to annoy people who don't deserve the annoyance.
(b) Please choose appropriate targets to protest against, i.e. people who actually have something to do with the crappy decision making. Do not protest in campus administration buildings when there's a freaking capital to go harass, annoy, and punish.

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