Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel once said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
Indeed, protest has always been part of the fabric that makes our society unique. From the radical beginnings of the Boston Tea Party to the seismic shifts that came as a result of the Civil Rights Movement, there is no doubt that speaking out against injustice is an irreplaceable part of our democratic society. Furthermore, our own university’s humble beginnings as a progressive liberal arts college and a stronghold for political activism also point to our radical roots.
In times like these, when the state’s shrinking budget threatens the very institution that is meant to broaden our intellect and knowledge, Wiesel’s words seem to resonate particularly well. Yet it seems that as a student body, our ever-present willingness to protest has begun to trump our willingness to invest in the decision-making process that can be a lot more tedious than a robust walk out of Quarry Plaza.
In the wake of the massive budget cuts at UC Santa Cruz, and in particular the potential decision to cut the community studies department, there has been a tremendous and commendable amount of organizing by a group of devoted students, and it should not go unnoticed. But in the new era of Facebook and Twitter, it seems that attending these protests and walk-outs has become yet another social gathering listed on one’s homepage, rather than a sign of utmost devotion to a vital cause.
The Facebook group entitled “The Coalition to Save Community Studies” has over 3,000 members. The two recent walk-outs hosted by the coalition have seen considerable turnouts by several hundreds of students as well. However, recent town hall meetings and forums held by the Division of Student Affairs and the Student Union Assembly (SUA) to discuss the budget situation have seen comparatively low attendance. A considerable amount of publicity, including a mass e-mail from vice chancellor of student affairs Felicia McGinty, has still resulted in rooms with many empty chairs and unanswered questions.
These meetings are important for many reasons. By hosting these, the administration is asking to hear our voice, albeit in a more controlled and moderated setting. It is true that meetings with UC administrators can be frustrating and often yield less-than-adequate answers. However, that fact should provide us with even more reason to dive into the drudgery of dealing with these important issues head-on.
It’s time that students realize that joining a coalition online and jumping into a protest is not enough. We have to be willing to work within the system, not just protest against it.
The fact of the matter is that unlike Wiesel’s quote, we are not powerless to prevent this injustice. On the contrary, this is our university and it is here to serve us. This should be enough motivation to talk to administrators, especially when they actively seek to hear our voices.
Now is the time for us to ask hard questions. and reject empty answers. We need to continue a strong and informed dialogue with the administration. Coupled with the impassioned and radical protests UCSC is known for, we can reclaim ownership of our university.
At the current time, no additional budget forums have been announced for the quarter. However, vice chancellor McGinty holds open office hours in Kerr Hall 221, every Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.