The times, they are a changin’
“I’m glad you young people have seen fit to protest non-violently. It shows you’re civilized. Now get out.”
Thus reads the caption of an editorial cartoon from the Sept. 26, 1969, issue of the Carillon. In the cartoon, a confused group of students stands before the head of their institution while he smiles condescendingly and sends them on their way, obviously disregarding their concerns.
In the same issue, the paper examined the student aversion to militancy on campus as a means of effecting real and positive change after the failure of a students’ union resolution to “occupy” the bursar’s office to protest an increase in tuition fees. Those long-ago editors asserted that students have been socialized to fear the negative connotations of words like militancy and occupation, and thus remain passive for fear of disrupting the orderly society they live in even though they truly believe in the cause they are passionate about.
It’s shocking how nothing has changed.
The global Occupy movement, while certainly founded on principles that many people agree with, continues to cause discomfort to people who might otherwise support it through its use of revolutionary language. Tuition, the bane of students in 1969, continues to rise with little chance that any meaningful action will be taken to stop the ever-upward trajectory. Perhaps most importantly, while rallies and sit-ins continue to be held, no discernible changes are ever made.
So on the early morning of Feb. 7, the U of R board of governors, escorted by security to their locked boardroom, accepted letters from students, said a few token phrases about caring about transparency, and then effectively told the students to get out. Just like in the 1960s, the inner workings of the university – an institution whose inner workings affect students most – are off limits to scrutiny by those same students.
To be fair, the people on the board of governors are by no means bad people. They are, however, deliberately blocking student observation of their institution, and although their policy manual dictates that meetings are to be closed to the public, they’re wrong in upholding that policy. While minutes provide the bare details of what happened in each meeting, they do not record the subtle nuances of debate and minutes are by no stretch of the imagination an adequate substitute for being able to witness firsthand discussions affecting the future of the university.
Plus, opening these meetings would encourage a much more open conversation between the administration and students. I mean, come on, when the only way to get the administration to consult with students is to plaster posters quoting President Vianne Timmons across campus (as was done with the parking issue) then there is a communication gap.
The administration, as much as it might like to, can no longer hole up and essentially direct this university from the shadows. This isn’t the 1960s. There is no need to hide behind the boardroom door. We need to demand more transparency.