Slow Movement

Campus Issues: Yesterday's protests showed some improvement over protests of the past but failed to inspire at the end.

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Although the effects from yesterday's protest remain unclear, it is comforting to see that this campus learns at least somewhat from experience. Compared to events in the past year, including the occupation of Wheeler Hall and the Southside riots, we were happy with how the protest was implemented, despite the fact that it ended on an organizational whimper.

Admittedly, the focus of the protest remained scattered without a specific policy to oppose or an explicit cause to support. Communicating a clear message is always desirable to mobilize and educate as many students as possible. We would have liked to see a bigger emphasis on reaching state voters for the upcoming election, for example. At the very least, we hope that more students took the opportunity to educate themselves on the ongoing fiscal crisis within the university.

However, we recognize the need to act in communicating the continued importance of higher education. It would be hard to take students seriously if they had completely forgotten and forgiven the university's systemic financial turmoil last year just because a new semester started.

Despite the fuzzy focus of the protest, we would like to acknowledge that yesterday began with a level of preparedness and organization. The teach-outs gave interested students the chance to be further educated. Fliers passed out during the noon rally communicated the situation at hand, and some volunteers walking through the crowd offered to help individuals register to vote.

The pulled fire alarms and interrupted classes were exceptions to mostly appropriate actions taken by protesters. We continue to denounce these disruptions; those who earnestly want to teach or attend class deserve to do so. No one will turn around and support the events if they are barred from completing a midterm. Protesters should realize this is not an appropriate strategy.

There was also marked improvement on the side of enforcement. UCPD requested in advance that officers and security guards outside of the department be stationed on campus for the protest. UCPD Lt. Alex Yao said that the change in preparation plans was influenced by the UC Berkeley Police Review Board report regarding the events of Nov. 20. This was a positive step forward - the 28 peace officers and security guards worked to make sure that protests remained peaceful. We are also pleased to see that the department is taking the report into account and adjusting protocol based off of past experience.

While the administration demonstrated a more conscious effort to be in tune with yesterday's events, their issued response fell flat. The letter delivered to Doe Library from Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Harry Le Grande did not contain any substance and did not address any of the expressed concerns. Yes, many of the demands issued by the protesters were impossible for these individuals to resolve. Nevertheless, the leadership on this campus should have explained why they could not rescind the 32 percent fee increase or the 2012 admissions policy. Administrators could have instead shared their plans to help the campus move forward.

At the end of the day, the protesters' efforts also fizzled out. With impossible acoustics in the library's North Reading Room, nobody could effectively communicate to the group. The decision to leave the room and go downstairs, one that some protesters realized only after reading The Daily Californian's update, ended the occupation when participants decided to disperse. There was no damage, people left peacefully and most even picked up after themselves.

While we are glad nobody was hurt, this was a dull and uninspiring end to a supposed day of action. Organizers had the time and means to make a stronger statement while still remaining peaceful. Instead, a group of people simply stayed in the library during the hours it was open.

In the past, we have criticized more eventful protests as being too radical to garner support for higher education's cause. Yesterday was somewhat on the other side of the spectrum. If movements continue, those in charge must keep trying to find a balance between respectful expression and displayed passion. Ultimately, it is a learning experience in and of itself.


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