In response to a 32 percent fee increase for students at the University of California, there have been numerous demonstrations decrying what students see as mismanagement by the UC Board of Regents and the state of California. While it is certainly the right of all students to protest, it is important to do so with respect and tact. Otherwise, the spectacle can simply detract from the message.
Over the last several days, the protestors at UC Davis unfortunately let their tactics overshadow their message. Instead of expressing their frustrations coherently, many have resorted to hurling misguided personal attacks. This is both unproductive and inappropriate.
People like Senior Associate Vice Chancellor Janet Gong are not the enemy. Part of Gong’s job is to minimize the effects of budget cuts on students. She works for us, not against us. It was admirable of Gong to address students and negotiate with them, despite the hostile circumstances.
In the most recent conflict between students and the administration, protestors essentially threw a tantrum by shouting down Gong and UC Police Chief Annette Spiccuza while they were speaking. The protestors presented a list of mostly unrealistic and contradictory demands and accused both Gong and Spicuzza of corruption and insufficiency. This steered the protest away from the real issue at hand.
For example, the demand to stop all construction directly contradicts the demand for the expansion of low-income cooperative housing.
Shoving a list of demands in the face of decision makers without offering any possible solutions is ineffective and rude. It won’t work in this situation, and it certainly won’t work in the professional world. The sooner angry students approach the budget situation in a mature way, the sooner real, sustainable progress can be made.
When done correctly, protesting is an effective way of bringing attention to a cause. Though students have legitimate complaints in this situation, the key is bringing positive attention in order to generate support for their position.