Sit This One Out

If you disagree with Paul, protest him at [email protected].





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I knew something was up. The usual suspects were making their rounds to large lecture halls, trying to convince professors to graciously allow them to take a good chunk of precious lecture time so they could try their best at duping innocent students into joining whatever new cause was popular. In my lecture the professor nonchalantly turned down the suspects' pre-lecture offer.

For the time being, I was curious as to what cause had these rousers recruiting. Maybe affirmative action? Or could it have been another anti-war thing? I guessed I would never know unless I acted on my curiosity, but I quickly discarded such inclinations as the professor casually began to lecture.

I discovered the intent of these people last Monday as I was taking my usual late-night walk across the campus. Strolling down the steep path from North Gate, I noticed large, florescent letters chalked on the blacktop in the usual in-your-face style. The text called attention to a mass meeting in some small room in Wheeler Hall to organize a campaign to eliminate the SAT's use in college admission decisions.

Initially, I chuckled under my breath. Realistically, can a miniscule Wheeler classroom really accommodate the number of people necessary to dub such a gathering a "mass meeting"? Aside from logistics, I also pondered the role this yet-to-be-organized campaign would play.

Historically, organizing large protests and campaigns has been intended to call to the establishment's attention some sort of social injustice it would otherwise be ignoring or not acting upon. Such movements come as a result of exhaustion of all other avenues of change; they're last resorts.

Berkeley protesters in the 1960s called for free speech liberties they would have received had they not been UC students. The 1980s saw student protesters demanding an end to UC investment in the then-Apartheid regime of South Africa. Will future protests demanding the end of SAT-use in college admissions follow such precedence?

Probably not, and here's why: UC is already giving the issue the attention the unassembled campaign will probably seek. UC President Richard Atkinson dented a cornerstone in the higher education paradigm last year when he called for the end of the university's SAT-use in its college admissions procedures, and he did so without the motivation of huge masses of angry protesters. As long as Atkinson is UC's president, the issue won't be forgotten, completely negating the role this campaign wants to play.

And this is the problem with the social campaigns and protests of today; they want to play a role, regardless of the campaign's necessity. It's almost as if some people are searching for excuses to protest or be angry.

Granted, the world has its fair share of things to be angry about. But the organization of uprisings for the sake of uprising gives merit to the claim that idealists will seize any opportunity to protest because they like the idea of disrupting people's daily lives. It's a stigma many of today's idealists and liberals-I consider myself to be among them-are trying to shed.

Non-Berkeleyans did not find last semester's anti-war protests productive. Instead, as I gathered from my interactions with Berkeley outsiders, they thought the protests were cute. If Berkeley protests are to be taken seriously, we must re-evaluate exactly what warrants uprising and revolution and what should be left to those who can best deal with the issue.

Protesting the use of the SAT during its inevitable demise will do nothing to help the cause. We idealists must pick and choose the issues suitable for protests and campaigns so they will be taken seriously by the public and subsequently given merit.

If the students of UC Berkeley really want to see the end of using the SAT in college admissions, it would be best to the let the UC administration do the work, as it already is. For the sake of the cause, it's our turn to sit this one out.

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