…or something. In his most recent column, my friend and DTH columnist Mark Laichena bemoans the apparent lack of activism at UNC and asks whether this shows that UNC is less committed to social justice than “service hours and other indicators would suggest.” Even more strangely, he seems to dismiss long-term, committed efforts by members of the Campus Y, the Roosevelt Institute, and other organizations on campus that actually achieve substantive results that benefit people.
To my mind, this is a great development for UNC and shows a maturity in how we attempt to address the problems plaguing our society. The futility of student protests should be obvious. Look at the examples Mark lists of student protests that he presumably wishes UNC would emulate: protests against the tuition increases in California, marches against Scott Walker’s ban on collective bargaining in Wisconsin, and protests like Occupy Wall Street in New York.
Now, show of hands: who thinks that, because of those protests, tuition won’t increase in California, public-sector unions will be restored in Wisconsin, and income inequality will magically disappear across the country? *crickets* Thought so.
The same would apply if we had a far more active Occupy Chapel Hill/UNC (and not merely a “damp squid”) or massive numbers of students protesting our own tuition hikes. They would achieve nothing. The tuition hike would still happen because protests don’t make economic realities disappear.
Contrast that with the approach currently being taken by Student Government or the Campus Y- instead of protesting, they’re sitting down to figure out a way to minimize the tuition hike. They’re working with administrators to achieve their ends, not calling them rich, white, males who clearly don’t care about the poor.
Consider the difference between the Campus Y of the ’90s and the Campus Y of today. Two decades ago, the Campus Y was a rowdy bunch heavy on ideology, not so heavy on actually doing social justice. Today, that’s almost completely changed. Committees like Best Buddies, Big Buddy, Carolina Microfinance Initiative, Nourish International, or Project Literacy do amazing things to change our community for the better. But we’re expected to believe that their time would potentially be better spent on protesting?
Protesting is merely man’s shallow attempt to satisfy that need to do something even though we realize that human action is ultimately futile. But on a practical level, imagine all the good that could have been done if, instead of beating drums all day and yelling, the Occupiers had devoted their time and energies to a Habitat build. We ought to celebrate that “this campus today seems far away from its activist history.” It’s not a sign that we’re any less dedicated to improving the lot of man- it’s just that we’re finally beginning to do so, little by little.