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Davis, California

Monday, April 22, 2024

Column: Hearts and minds

The wave of March 4 student protests have come and gone, and what a spectacle they were. I joined a group of protestors at one point to see what the commotion was all about; I really just wanted to hear what they had to say.

One of the students was screaming what sounded like obscenities into a loudspeaker. At least I thought they were obscenities, it was mostly incoherent and unintelligible. The screaming was, however, much more pleasant than the loud chorus of buzzing coming from the fire alarms. I’m sure glad that I didn’t have to be inside Wellman Hall when they went off. It would’ve been very distracting and aggravating for me had I been in class. Certainly much worse had I been taking a midterm.

As I departed the scene I thought I heard something about protecting education, but perhaps that was just another student on the way to a class.

While I departed to attend my next lecture, the protestors went to the streets. Apparently, one of their many grievances is with public transportation. The masses of angry demonstrators decided that Unitrans buses had to be stopped at any cost.

The protestors really stuck it to those students who wanted to go to class, and on top of that they showed the student drivers the error of their ways. The dastardly purveyors of diligence and hard work really had to be stopped by any means necessary.

As the day wore on, the mob of protestors decided that a bigger target was necessary to get their point across. The taxpayers and commuters must see exactly what their money has been funding. The methods the protestors used to do this seemed to be inspired by Frogger, an old video game that allows you to play the role of a frog crossing a busy street. They must have been better than me because I just remember being splattered.

The protestors were able to block many city streets before approaching the biggest target of all, Interstate 80. It was at this time that a pernicious group intervened to stop the protest from following through on the plan. The police, who are employed to protect public safety, prevented them from running out onto the busy freeway. It was around this time that I drove past the dwindled crowd, which had dissipated due to frustration, exhaustion or perhaps boredom.

Is my assessment of the day’s protests a little harsh? Perhaps, but what I want to convey is that by using disruptive and illogical tactics, the protests will do more harm than good. Simply bringing attention to a cause doesn’t mean that it will gain widespread support. Angering and alienating potential sympathizers is no way to build a mass movement.

There were many students who showed up to protest peacefully on campus, and there were some who even went to the state capitol. These actions will be far more productive in the long run, and have a much better chance of gaining support from the people who really matter.

The people who matter are elected officials and the large number of California citizens who will be voting in the next elections.

What people saw when they turned on the news appeared to be nothing more than an angry mob that lacked coherence and was destructive toward the one thing they were supposed to be supporting.

Politicians and taxpayers will not be likely to write us a bigger check if we damage the image of our institution.

Unfortunately, the event was seemingly taken over by people who just thought that a protest would be a fun thing to do. There also seemed to be a number of people attracted to the campus who were not UC Davis students at all. These interlopers have a mixed agenda that has little to do with students.

Many of the standard signs had the words AFL-CIO written at the bottom. AFL-CIO is a federation that represents the largest number of unions in the United States. Government funded unions are basically competing with the students over the same pot of money. Even if the pot of money gets expanded, unions will not race to share the money with the students.

Protests can be ugly and highly uncivil, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, using aggressive tactics to go after citizens and fellow students is both rude and counterproductive.

JARRETT STEPMAN appreciates a passionate but respectful protest that compels citizens to civic action. He doesn’t, however, support a mob. You can send him your protests at jstepman@ucdavis.edu.


  1. Thank you for writing this piece. I too supported the idea behind the protest but not the counterproductive, ineffective tactics used. Resources should be concentrated on where a difference might actually be made, not just a ruckus caused to get attention.

  2. My only hope is that every student on your campus will read this and take note. Monsieur Stepman brilliantly points out that the buffoons who were immature and idiotic in their protestation methods most likely devalued the entire protests. Shame on those of you who tried to reach the motorway. Shame on you. Bloody idiots.


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