"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, April 26, 2024

Campus Order Depends Upon Rights to Protest

If politicians and campus bureaucrats were to learn anything from the 1960s campus uprisings that could help them today deal with the rising tide of student and faculty indignation at Netanyahu's continuing murderous war against Palestinians, it should be that expulsions, riot gear, and jail will not restore the culturally-isolated academic order and the myopic careerist environment of the modern corporate university. Alas, "something's happening here."

Just as the Free Speech Movement born at Berkeley embodied a desire by students to involve themselves in off-campus issues, i.e., the emerging Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s, the student rumblings on today's campuses from New York to Gainesville to Austin to Los Angeles echo the same commitment to humane values, the same righteous anger, and the same determination to have their universities embrace policies that are are consistent with universities' traditional humanistic values grounded in celebrating life on Earth and the rights of all people to live free.

Today's students are no longer satisfied with lip service to free speech and the right to protest from pompous administrators like Vanderbilt's chancellor, Daniel Diermeier, who refers to Vanderbilt as "my campus." And especially when the right to protest is conditioned by rules against the disruption of any university operation. As Amna Nawaz pointed out in her interview with Diermeier, "many would say the purpose of protests is to disrupt." 

The students who are participating in this new protest movement agree.  From Columbia student, Sofia Ongele:

She said the university’s response feels contradictory.

“The university wants us to learn about protests and social movements — people like MLK did participate in civil disobedience — but not to take that knowledge and apply it to something that really, really matters,” she said.

But the growing wave of demonstrations sparked by the Columbia protests has made her hopeful for college students around the country, who she said now share a common sense of purpose.

“It’s been beautiful to see,” she said.

So exactly 60 years after the first mass acts of civil disobedience on American campuses in support of free speech, don't be surprised to see civil disobedience on campus once again lighting the torch of freedom for human rights, both here and abroad.


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