Yesterday in Lister at 6 p.m., there was a protest. Unsurprisingly students are angry that despite continuously demanding that the Board of Governors not institute a new meal plan that is highly unpopular, to stop increasing rent, or to not increase international student tuition that there are no signs of the board actually respecting those wishes. The protest took the form of a rally in the dining hall and left me both very hopeful and fairly disappointed.
I was left feeling hopeful because it was great to see the relatively large showing of students being able to demand change and the energy and emotion behind it. The Students’ Union executive, various executives from different residence associations, and executives from the International Students’ Association were all there and gave speeches to students. It was a level of cooperation and interaction that will form a good starting point for the likely necessary future student action. Students seemed genuinely interested in going to the board meeting this Friday at 8 a.m., which is extremely important if there is going to be a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the governors to change their direction.
Yet, there were warning signs that could prove problematic if they persist. Firstly it seems that there were still a lot of worries about perception, and organizers went so far as to tell students “not to swear.” This is problematic because there is only so much that students can achieve while seeming respectable. For example, if on Friday all the students get ejected or prevented from entering the meeting, there is nothing more a “respectable” student can do besides watch as the board ignores their wishes. Moreover, stifling student emotions can cause students to lose the drive that brought them there in the first place, and can be counterproductive to getting the number of people needed to convince the administration to change.
These signs can be corrected though. We can organize protests that allow students to be true to themselves while still not devolving into an outright riot. We can also be willing to go beyond the “respectable” student when the time comes. Being willing to commit to more drastic actions is essential to ensuring the administration feels the pressure needed to change. It is great that the SU and other student governance organizations see the path forward isn’t just lobbying and discourse, but also action. Now it is important those same organizations are ready to commit to those actions fully.