Power to the People? I Don't Think So

Rather Than Participating in Ineffective Protests, Students Should Learn About Issues and Vote

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Correction Appended

I'm a true Berkeley liberal through and through, but I am thoroughly disappointed with the plans for the Oct. 7 protest. Until UC Berkeley students can legitimately articulate a cohesive political message and coordinate nonviolent yet effective protests that do not involve unnecessary violence and knocking down trash cans (which makes the job of the underpaid janitor you claim to be fighting for that much more difficult),

I refuse to support Berkeley's 21st century notion of activism it is unorganized, lacks a tangible goal to unite its participant, and tarnishes the memory of the vastly better executed Free Speech Movement of the 1960s.

This protest is problematic for several reasons. First, it functions as an excuse for students to miss class, as many simply stay home instead of actively participating (by the way, that's why we attend this amazing public university - to learn).

Second, it provides an opportunity for ignorant people to place blame on any authority figure who is the current scapegoat. There's nothing worse than when students aim their anger at Chancellor Birgeneau, in doing so ignoring the root causes of the budget crisis and forgetting to consider those in power who exacerbated the situation: the governor, who seems to put education last on his agenda; the California state Legislature and its 2/3 majority necessary for voting on budgets and taxes which creates massive gridlock; and, of course, Proposition 13 (the 1978 ballot initiative that was a major setback for education funding in California and directly led to public schools ranking lowest in the nation).

Third, the hype surrounding the protest creates an inviting atmosphere for Berkeley crazies to get involved these people are not students and typically rally for any left-leaning political cause. They don't go to UC Berkeley; therefore this is not their fight, yet their radical agenda gets pursued in the end, muddling the true message of the protest.

Fourth, the lack of public forums surrounding the issues at stake prevents students from becoming well informed and being able to organize efficiently. Graffiti on bathroom stalls announcing "October 7 shut down" is clearly not the proper advertising to get the message across or even explain the struggle. This results in the protest being dictated by a few who preach to the masses and are ultimately unclear about what they want to gain there is nothing less democratic than that.

So instead of getting swept up in a poorly planned cause that does not choose one concrete issue to focus on, lumps together several unrelated problems and becomes a disorganized venue for a variety of complaints, consider the historical context of what put us into this mess in the first place and make it a point to inform yourself.

Then, if you still really want to voice your opinion, register to vote and get your ass to the polls this Nov. 2.

Correction: Saturday, October 9, 2010
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Nadine Levyfield is a UC Berkeley student. Reply to [email protected]



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