On Wednesday I was late getting to Turpin’s town hall, so I couldn’t get in because it was packed. It was so packed that I couldn’t get into the overflow room either. As much as I would have liked to get in, I was pleasantly surprised. I had expected that hardly anyone would show up, much like the poor student turnout at the BoG meeting that passed international student tuition increases and residence changes. While it is great to see students turnout, it’s important this becomes the norm and not the exception. If we can’t maintain a consistent presence at events like this, what we can do will become more easily disregarded. It doesn’t matter if you came out to shout this Wednesday if in the future at the next board meeting you slept in or are out having fun.
It is all too easy for us in the coming months to disengage for a variety of legitimate reasons. There are exams, people are moving, some of you will be going home to see family, and others will just have no reason to come to campus. Unfortunately, that plays into the hands of the administration who would be overjoyed to see this movement fade away instead of having to address the multitude of systemic issues with campus. Creating and maintaining a protest movement isn’t easy — it requires a notable amount of personal sacrifice and long-term commitment. It needs us to keep the momentum going over the summer term into next fall session and possibly a long time into the future.
All of us who are impassioned and involved have lit a little spark of resistance inside ourselves, and looking after that spark as well as trying to spread that spark to other students is going to be both the hardest and most important part of protesting the actions of the university. There are going to be moments where protesting seems pointless, where you will look at the time you’ve spent relative to progress made and don’t think it worthwhile anymore. In those moments you need to remember it is all about the long game, maintaining consistent long-term pressure on the administration. When you talk to students who haven’t really gotten involved yet, it’s important to help them understand not only why this issue matters in the now, but why this issue matters in the long-term and needs to be changed. When you talk to students who are involved it is important to support and validate what each of us can do or contribute, while still trying to encourage continuous turnout. Showing up but not being able to be there the whole time is still good, showing up and being partially busy with something else is still good, showing up but not feeling comfortable shouting is still good, and so are all the other ways someone can participate.
This isn’t to condemn those of us who can’t keep turning out — I hope we can all still appreciate the limitations on each other’s lives — but more of a plea that if you can afford to turn out, please do. Help us help each other, support your fellow students even if this doesn’t impact you, and please make sacrifices you can afford to make because otherwise, campus is going to continue to get more unaffordable for everyone.