Monday’s dialogue with the chancellor revealed a lot about those who participated.
Many of the student protestors who were arrested at Mrak Hall last month showed up, shared their personal stories and asked tough questions of the administrators present. They waited patiently to speak and didn’t hesitate to criticize Chancellor Linda Katehi, Provost Enrique Lavernia and Associate Vice Chancellor Kelly Ratliff.
This was a commendable move on their part. By showing up and participating, the students proved they are not protesting for the sake of protesting – they truly are committed to their cause.
The presence of the student protestors also demonstrated their willingness to work through both official and unofficial avenues. As we have argued in recent editorials, while there certainly is value in civil disobedience, there is also value in working through more formal venues.
Administrators, for their part, handled the meeting well. Katehi in particular rolled with the punches, easily responding to difficult questions.
Whether rightly or wrongly, Katehi has been accused in the not-so-distant past of being evasive. On Monday night, however, she was notably forthright and honest in her answers. When asked about her salary, she explained her belief that compensation is based on the going rate for one’s academic discipline as well as the market rate for the job itself. When asked why she didn’t talk to the protestors directly when they were protesting, she said simply, “I responded when I felt it was appropriate.”
No concrete gains were achieved with Monday’s event, but it was an important step toward lasting change. Students and others were directed toward resources they may not have seen otherwise. Administrators heard firsthand the impact of the cuts they have made and had to face those who were feeling the pain.
We encourage this type of exchange and hope to see more of it very soon.