Stop coddling the student activists

Ankur Patel

A recent Warren Buffett editorial “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich,” which published in The New York Times, drew attention to the fact that some people in the United States are obscenely rich, and garnering the protection of the government.

I would like to make it clear that student activists, up to now, have failed.

Part of that might be because we rally and yell in the streets over a tuition increase, then go off and spend $30 on drinks at the bar. With tuition going from $5,076 in 2010-11 to $6,488 in 2011-12, the nearly $1,400 increase should have us upset, but the fact that students aren’t poor compared to the homeless, and our narrow focus on tuition, prevents our movement from appealing to the broader population.

It is not that student activists and organizations, such as Students for Quality Education, are incompetent, it is about taking our political organizing to the next level.

We often don’t have our facts straight; we still know more about the Dodgers, Lakers and “American Idol” contestestants than elected representatives. We have to know what happened in the Russian Revolution, in the Carnation Revolution in Portugal of 1974, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 – there is a lot of history for us to be building on; instead, ego and naïveté rule the day.

We still don’t have the structure and organization to show up to all relevant meetings and make intelligent comments. We show up once in a while when “they” are about to vote on increasing our tuition and yell and pound the windows a little. Chasing Chancellor Charles Reed off of our campus might have felt good, but students running after a golf-cart? President Joelene Koester’s and Reed’s salaries are significant, but focusing on those small issues marginalizes the movement.

A news release put out by the California State University Board of Trustees (BOT) regarding approved tuition hikes was made available to the public before the BOT actually voted on the tuition hikes at its July 12 meeting. The premature news release shows what they think of us.

It really is simple: The budget cuts keep coming, tuition keeps rising and the quality of education continues to decline because students don’t vote. We also need to get beyond the two-party binary.

We need to make our activism sustainable. We can’t be working eight-hour days flipping burgers or selling clothes in the mall, then have class, do our homework and be expected to devote the energy and brain power required to be effective in our political organizing.

Yelling in the streets is visible and gets people’s attention, but that is just the first half … In order to get attention, we have to stop protesting in a way that is acceptable to those powers we are protesting against. But we also have to be nonviolent, unafraid to step on toes and capable of working toward a solution through dialogue.

Otherwise, we remain irrelevant.