The battle over the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) has spread beyond the front lines at Science Hill and into the refuge of second-rate poetry and drunken scribbling: bathroom stalls.
Boldly denouncing the LRDP in black sprawling letters in bathrooms throughout campus, recent acts of vandalism have been hard to miss. The fact that splattering walls with “Fuck the LRDP” and the like is illegal won’t convince much of the student body that it’s wrong. The fact that such an act is in violation of UCSC’s Principles of Community probably won’t either. That’s understandable. But self-righteous and misguided protestations also whittle away at the legitimacy of the activists whose means are more peaceful and more effective. The covert lavatory doodlers are not in solidarity with the activists on Science Hill.
In a written Nov. 7 address to students, Chancellor Blumenthal had some words of caution for the number of protesters whose dissent turned unreasonable. Though the bathroom vandals weren’t being addressed specifically, they could do worse than listen.
“We respect the right of all individuals to speak freely on campus,” wrote Blumenthal. “The expression of ideas, combined with passion, can be a powerful force for change. But that passion is best expressed in a manner that values discourse, disagreement, and debate.”
That is really the crux of the issue. Whether we like it or not â€“ bandanna-masked pseudo-anarchists included â€“ those who work for change on this campus must engage with debate. We live on a campus that values free speech above most anything else. But if we don’t want that privilege to be drowned out or whitewashed over, it needs to be accompanied by pluralism and something that passion tends to tune out: the entertainment of doubt.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time and still retain the ability to function. The vandals, so steadfast in their beliefs, have masked themselves with anonymity and etched their burning thoughts on walls away from the public eye. Hidden in the most intimate of spaces, “Fuck the LRDP” won’t get any message across. It is as ineffective as it is zealous.
There are problems with the LRDP, and students and faculty deserve for them to be addressed. Throughout his tenure, Chancellor Blumenthal has shown remarkable candor in keeping lines of dialogue open. To that effect, he made it clear that the LRDP wasn’t drafted without student input.
“To suggest that students were not involved in the [LRDP] plan’s creation is inaccurate,” he wrote in his Nov. 7 address. “Students served on campus LRDP committees and produced a ‘student involvement’ paper that presented their perspectives.”
According to the Student Union Assembly website, UCSC students Matt Waxman, James Sheldon, and Tamara Belknap all served on the LRDP committee. What’s more, the January 2005 LRDP draft asserts that its committee was “made up of faculty, administrators, staff, as well as representatives of the City of Santa Cruz, the County of Santa Cruz, the UC Office of the President, the UCSC Alumni Association, and the UC Santa Cruz Foundation.”
The broad constituency of the committee is a safeguard against autocratic thought and a product of doubt – that is, that notion that in matters of politics, we are prone to human error no matter our convictions. The entire LRDP committee might be in the wrong, but it has shown itself to be open to dialogue and public representation. As students, we should display the same forthrightness.
Skeptics might point out that three students can hardly represent the diverse needs of a large university campus. That may be the case, but there was never any shortage of opportunity to voice input or disagreement.
A Nov. 10 2003 UCSC Currents article titled UCSC begins process of updating its LRDP; first forum held notes the first UCSC public forum held to “provide the public with an early opportunity to give the campus feedback about issues and values that need to be considered as we update our LRDP.” On Nov. 2, 2004 an administrative message was sent to faculty and staff detailing a fifth public workshop and announcing two public forums held especially for the campus community.
There are times when one must put a foot down, and stare down an injustice directly in the face. There is a time when all measures, including transgressive ones, must be taken. There is no one to better minister such acts than college youths like ourselves. This is not one of those times.