Friday, April 29, 2011
Category: Opinion > Editorials
Successful protests call attention to a cause, with participants rallying as the issue gains visibility and negotiating to effect progress toward their goals.
In these respects, the hunger strike that began Tuesday afternoon was a total failure. The protesters seemed completely unprepared for the administration's offer to meet on Tuesday and chose instead to prolong the strike in the hopes of gaining support.
While representatives of the students ultimately decided to meet with administration officials Wednesday, they never achieved substantial levels of student support and apparently struggled to determine what path their protest should take.
The strikers' goals were neither realistic nor representative of the entire student body, and we cannot imagine that they expected administrators to capitulate.
Their decision to wait for more substantial support before agreeing to a meeting with officials is a sign that this protest was not very well thought-out in the first place. The protesters and their supporters had their message ready for their signs, slogans and chants - but not ready for a fruitful discussion.
It was the administration that came across as the most reasonable side of this protest. Officials obviously learned from previous protests and were quick to provide a means to resolve the dispute.
However, the mere existence of the protest suggests a dangerous proposition - that some students feel like the only way they can directly reach out to administration officials is to force the issue through protests and hunger strikes.
The administration must be more open to meeting - we see no reason why town halls, or other open forums, should not be held at least once per semester.
Campus officials should preemptively begin conversations about controversial issues. Otherwise, they risk appearing to lack transparency and can end up incensing the student body.
If officials do not wish to hold these forums, they must justify their concerns to the student body. The existence of a clear and open dialogue between administrators and students is critical for strengthening the campus community and may itself diminish the number of protests by opening a less confrontational avenue of interaction with campus administrators.
The hunger strike was an ill-conceived protest, and it's unsurprising that little amounted of it. But campus administrators have the responsibility to provide students with less extreme, more productive means of communication.
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