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Monday, June 17, 2024

Column: Let’s go horizontal

Mother nature must have known what she was doing when she created the phenomenon of sexual attraction. What is it about human psychology and physiology that causes us to shift into another gear when speaking with someone who is attractive and engaging? Suddenly a feeling of “this makes life worth living” seems to ooze out of one’s pores, as we put our best foot forward with high expectations and a sense of high intrigue.

  And then it happens: the boyfriend/girlfriend reference. For me it’s when a woman starts a sentence saying: “Well, my boyfriend-” I usually don’t hear the rest of the sentence. It feels like a five-gallon pickle bucket of ice-cold water being dumped on my head.

  This is not just something that plays out in one-on-one situations but can also happen between groups of people (in non-sexual situations). This is how I envision the current dichotomy in student politics between students majoring in social science, the humanities and the arts compared to students majoring in the science, technology, engineering and math (“STEM”) fields. Social science students are driving the ongoing (now worldwide) student protest movement, while STEM students are, by and large, dragging their feet on the issue.

  Making the analogy to the romance scenario, when I’m chatting with a student, not knowing what their major is, feeling inspired and engaged in the conversation and the topic of the student protest movement comes up, a STEM major might say something like: “Well, why make waves? If you want to make changes on certain issues, then just approach the administration politely with a better idea. If it’s a good idea they will probably approve it.” Arg, there’s that pickle-bucket-of-ice-water-dumped-on-my-head feeling again.

  Such an approach to the situation reflects gross political naiveté. For one, it assumes that holding student protest rallies is somehow improper. It assumes that such rallies are being led by a bunch of loud-mouthed and impractical ideologues who are alienating the administration, and that their efforts will backfire because they will lose the battle and end up being shunned later since, supposedly, no one will be willing to work with them.

  A STEM student who makes a comment like that is suffering from political myopia. The point of the protest is that problems have escalated to the point where simple and straightforward meetings no longer suffice. For our current situation in the University of California, you can blame Gov. Schwarzenegger. While we don’t have conclusive evidence, it’s fairly apparent that he decided to follow the advice of his aides several years ago and push for the quasi-privatization of the UC system. This is most likely why the UC Board of Regents hired Mark Yudof in 2008.

  Now, with Jerry Brown coming in as our new governor, Yudof has begun to change his tune. Last Monday he held a press conference and issued a statement (if we take it at face value) extolling the virtues of the University of California as a public university. In fact, Yudof might now be on his way out, realizing that he made severe political miscalculations in the past couple years and has dug himself into a personal political hole that he can’t climb out of.

  Whether Yudof resigns, gets nudged out of office by our new governor, or stays with us for a few more years, it appears that we protesters have had a major influence in saving the UC system. Since the UC system is the premier public university system in the world, we may have even saved the general concept of the public university worldwide.

But the work is far from complete. Speaking in moral terms, as participating citizens (of the university or the state) we are all coequal participants at the table. It’s our university and we are the people who have the ultimate say as to how it is run. We need to “go horizontal” by recognizing where the true political power lies and by continuing to exercise that power.

In an effort to bring everyone together on the issue, including STEM students and students of all majors, we will be holding a teach-out on the Quad all day tomorrow. Peter Byrne will speak at noon about conflicts of interests on the Board of Regents. Engineering students will be participating in a concurrent event on the Quad, so this will be a great opportunity to forge new bonds of student unity.

See you there!


Reach BRIAN RILEY at bkriley@ucdavis.edu.


  1. From my 10/21 column, Where we stand today:

    “While parading down Russell with a megaphone may play to your politically romantic inclinations, you’re more likely to be remixed into an awesome YouTube video. Our role as student activists is no longer to incite riots, it is to enter the political arena just as our UC Regents and members of Congress have, by educating our convictions and creating opportunities for ourselves. If our government ceasing to subsidize our education concerns us conceptually because it is a political injustice for everyone and not just because it affects us individually, then we too need to appreciate that times have changed and adapt to a more traditional, organized and believe it or not, effective activist mentality. Or we’ll achieve nothing, as we have so far.”

    I am pretty disappointed this column managed to get through to print, and I’m certainly not alone in this sentiment.

  2. Maybe that’s because us “apathetic” STEM students are too busy to engage in this generation’s attempt to capture the fervor of the 60s/70s antiwar movements. We’re busy, studying and applying ourselves for the jobs that are ACTUALLY going to save the world. It’ll be scientists and engineers who create solutions in the future…Liberal Arts majors are only good at bickering and becoming politicians who continually f*#$ shit up.

    So yes we’re not stupid enough to march out on a FREEWAY and disrupt the lives of other citizens. Citizens who might need to get to a sick child, the hospital or any number of other urgent things that matter in their lives. That must be why we’re all STEM majors and not getting a frakking B.A. in English–we are SMARTER than that.

    In other words: go screw yourself.


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