Between the 32 percent fee hike in 2009 and the annual ritual of slashing curricula, there’s been plenty for UC students to be upset about. What does it mean when every UC Board of Regents meeting for the last decade has been met with the hoarse cries of an ignored student body?
The Occupy movement that swept the the nation last fall was a similar catalyst for mobilization. An uproarious — and more importantly, awakened — student body discovered just how far the UC administration was willing to go to keep its status quo in check. Helping hands were cuffed, defiant faces were pepper-sprayed, and a number of students were hospitalized. The administration’s message was clear: Where there’s a will, there won’t be any way but theirs.
But the attempts of the UC to regulate students who would defy them are patently inane. We cannot be rounded up and pushed along like rats in a maze.
The most recent effort to suppress student voice manifested itself at the UC Riverside campus in December. In response to student protests, the dean of UCR handed down guidelines for demonstration. This slap to the collective student face was met with outrage. Overlooking clear violations of First Amendment rights, the protocol was demeaning to students, and treated them like children.
To be in compliance with those guidelines, UCR student demonstrators would need faculty chaperones, they could not carry stick-borne signs, and designated protesting areas were strictly enforced. While the UCR dean was swift in removing these guidelines in response to public outcry, the post in its original form is still available for view on a Say No to UCR Protest Guidelines online petition.
The dean’s response has been to form a task force on assembly guidelines. Yet the task force, composed mostly of administration officials, has proven to be a less-than-welcome response. In their first meeting, task force member Stephen Lee’s comments belittled student protesters.
“In a sense, administrators closely resemble the role of parents while students closely resemble the role of children,” Lee said.
UCR is not alone. UCLA, UC Berkeley and other UC campuses have similar policies in place barring students from disrupting the day-to-day affairs of their respective campuses. While one UC Davis fact sheet on protests refers to such activity as “the lifeblood of a successful university community,” the strict enforcement of UC policies has made it clear that business-as-usual comes first.
UC students are not children. They are old enough to choose to bury themselves in student loan debt, and they are old enough to express their opinions without hand-holding guidelines. In fact, there is one childhood lesson administrators themselves could stand to learn: Treat others as you wish to be treated. In the future, administrators should show students the same respect they demand of us.