Student protesters deserve genuine university support

CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

Students face disciplinary hearings following Mrak sit-in

For over a month in 2016, students occupied Mrak Hall to protest then-Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. It was intrusive, it was vocal and, most importantly, it was effective.

Students occupied Mrak again in January of this year, this time in protest of proposed tuition hikes throughout the University of California. It, too, effected change, but in a response initiated by the UC Davis administration, students from the second protest are now facing disciplinary action due to a violation of campus policies — namely, the occupation of a university building after regular business hours.

It stands to reason that the administration didn’t seriously reprimand students during the 2016 Katehi protests. An administrative response during such a high-profile case could cause irreparable damage to the university’s image if the public viewed it in a negative light. Now, when faced with a protest that hasn’t had as much media attention, the administration has begun to enforce the campus policies it overlooked during 2016.

To decide when to enforce campus regulations based on the national attention of a particular event is deceptive at best. The administration cannot decide to enforce the rules based on the possibility of public backlash. This action by the university to reprimand student protesters seems an unfair leveraging of administrative power over the student body. The administration wouldn’t be here if not for the students, and must support these peaceful protests, regardless of the situation.

Protests don’t just happen on a whim. They happen when people have their backs against the wall, when people fear for their safety or worth as an individual. Protests happen when other forms of diplomacy have failed.

The administration has affirmed its support for student protest and, in large part, that is likely true. But to say the administration supports student protesters while it steps in during peaceful sit-ins is to qualify the administration’s support for students on the basis of convenience.

The Editorial Board calls for a swift revision of the campus guidelines regarding explicit restrictions placed on peaceful sit-ins. Members of ASUCD must also use their collective voices as elected student representatives to support students in their various forms of opposition.

The point of a protest is to make people uncomfortable. If it was convenient for all parties involved, nothing would ever change. The students of UC Davis deserve better than an administration that uses its authority to stifle student expression.

Student protesters already sacrifice class attendance, sleep, public scrutiny and more. To threaten them with disciplinary action is to deprive them of the power they have as students. It’s unbecoming of UC Davis and mustn’t be allowed to continue.

 

Written by: The Editorial Board