Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hooray for students and faculty, particularly students

I was very encouraged today by the participation of students and faculty in the Watson interview. I was particularly happy to see the students take such sharp leadership. One of the most encouraging things was their rudeness to Watson, which, for reasons unknown to me, was much greater than their rudeness to Adams. I am not being facetious; I am completely serious. People in authority tend to make us fearful of asserting ourselves. Part of their control is a deeply ingrained fear of challenging authority. The rudeness is helpful because it takes a step toward overcoming that fear. Of course, it was only for a couple of days, but it give hope for the future.

I do not believe that a new president or even a new board will change the (racist) culture at Chicago State (I believe that this board would be replaced by another set of hacks). But the activism of students, faculty, and campus workers could make the campus very different.

The last time I saw such a display of student initiative and challenge to authority was in the spring of 1994, when, after the administration cancelled a SGA election after the party they favored had been disqualified by the panel responsible for monitoring conformity with election rules, about 25 students, including SGA leadership, got together to plan a protest rally, ordered microphones, and reserved a space in the Robinson University Center. Then the Cross leadership started to pressure people to drop out, making various threats and offers of reward for cooperation. The SGA president and all but four other students dropped out. At the time of the rally's scheduled beginning those four got up on the stage to begin. A campus cop told them that the space had been reserved for SGA, which was no longer holding the rally, that they could not use the sound system, and that if they tried to rally anyway they would be arrested. Two students got down from the stage. Then the third started to leave. The fourth said to the third, if you leave this stage I am going to f--- you up. He stayed, and they began to speak of the problems at CSU that motivated their calling the rally. Then the other two joined them, and many students gathered around to listen and support their speeches. After about twenty minutes the SGA president took the microphone (which they had not been allowed to use), thanked them, and said that she would like to offer Chernoh Sesay, the provost, the opportunity to respond. One student then gave a speech protesting this attempt to stop their rally, and the students, and some faculty, stomped, hollered, shouted, and clapped, but would not allow Sesay to speak. In my experiences with students at CSU, that one ranks #1, but the experience today was a good #2.

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