Last year, CMCers squirmed as they passed demonstrations from various 5C student groups addressing issues like what we’ll call the “SJP debacle” or the Daniel Markert Ath talk. The students involved in the protests were passionate about their claims, and by staging their protests at CMC, were presumably trying to elicit a response from CMC students.
However, CMC students often seemed perturbed by the presence of said public defendants of justice. At the “Candelight Vigil for the Death of Student Rights,” held by students in support of Students for Justice in Palestine, most CMC students stood at least 5 feet away, heads tilted, arms crossed, eyebrows furrowed, and mouths agape.
In the case of the “Candlelight Vigil,” there was no objective reason why CMCers should have felt alienated. The protesters were asking for a response from the administration, and they were speaking out against a professor who they felt had done wrong. Some CMCers got behind the issue, yet most did not take part, or felt that the protest was somehow against them.
The reason that CMCers felt this way was because in the middle of the demonstration, students from other colleges recounted times when simply walking across CMC’s campus “felt unsafe.” Students also accused CMCers of throwing a “Politically Incorrect” themed party, which served “Slave-erade,” and to which I was definitely not invited. While I can’t say with much certainty that these things didn’t take place, it hurts to think that some of our neighbors assign these injustices to the school as a whole, and specifically, to me. I’ve failed to find evidence of the “Politically Incorrect” party, but I accept that if someone says they feel unsafe, we need to listen, regardless of the reason. Like any other school, we are always looking for means of improvement, and it’s a discussion in which I think most of the student body is willing to take part, though maybe begrudgingly (Power : Responsibility :: Pride : Wounded Ego).
I feel a little bit sorry for the protesters involved in any of the past year’s pleas for social awareness. My views aside, anyone protesting must have felt strongly and passionately that people should listen, and it must be extremely frustrating that a majority of students give a sideways glance and walk by.
But, with all due respect, they’re doing it wrong. Students from the other colleges are painfully aware that CMC has a unique character compared to most liberal arts schools. However, when trying to engage CMC students, they use the same protesting tactics that worked like gangbusters at Occupy L.A. Obviously, they won’t fly. Here’s what it takes to get students involved at CMC:
- Don’t appeal to emotion. I’m sure everyone already knows this, but CMCers are rational, logical, and void of all human emotion. (Joking, we care a lot when mozz sticks are made with beer batter and not breaded – COME ON, ROSA). But seriously, a “candlelight vigil?” You’d have been better off calling it a “respectful discussion on the implications of a professor’s actions on student rights.” No joke. CMCers are a lot of things, but they’re not drama queens. And as debate stars, we all know that appealing to radical emotion is a flimsy tactic that basically discredits everything that comes after “we are here to mourn the death of our rights…”
- Don’t insult CMC. I’ve made a point of hanging around protests, and what I’ve found is that visiting students consistently bring up CMC’s shortcomings and mistakes when protesting at CMC. If you don’t want to get people on your side, then why are you at CMC? Why don’t you preach to people who already agree with you? And if you do want to get people on your side, why are you saying that CMCers are elitist, supremacist, ignorant, or any of the other negative things I’ve heard myself called? Contrary to the accusations I’ve heard, CMCers are very aware of their campus’ shortcomings, and often are aware of the progressive changes that need to be made. Students’ beliefs don’t always align with those of the administration. By and large, CMC students are open-minded thinkers who are, in my opinion, extremely willing to be persuaded by logic.
- Engage students. The yelling-in-your-face thing doesn’t work here. When every person on campus thinks that being late to this meeting in Kravis will mean the end of a so far dazzling college career, being yelled at by a group of students with some emotionally disturbing banners is the last thing anyone wants. Yes, I want to save the Everglades. No, I don’t want you to berate me for 10 minutes instead of telling me about it. Tabling with some eye-catching material and people who can answer difficult questions would be a great solution to this problem. (Warning: You will encounter smart asses who would rather play devil’s advocate with you than attend their next class. Embrace it!)
Overall, the concept of a protest does not play well to calm, tempered discussion presenting both sides of an often controversial issue. However, I think that a tactful protest can exist. Getting CMCers on your side takes persuasion and skill, but with a token amount of grace (and maybe free beer [had to, Ana, sorry]), you should be able to snag a few.