Students Are Not the Political Puppets of Their Professors

Campus Debate

However much I would like to, I simply do not have enough space to refute Spearman’s numerous fallacious claims [in her article “Student Protests Should Be Student Run” April 21, 2011]. Nor do I wish to spend much time illuminating their total lack of investigation and fact-checking.

As a student organizer of the April 13th People’s University event and subsequent open occupation, rather, I would like to add mine to the chorus of voices of other students and faculty who aim to rebut Spearman’s reactionary slander. Specifically, I should like to address Spearman’s grossly authoritative and condescending tone regarding students’ understanding of politics, economics or systems of power. To this I can only firmly respond that many of us, especially students, know precisely “who to be angry at” and do not share your naive faith in lobbying or electoral politics.

This was in large part the discourse of the April 13th event. In other words, we hold true that real power and change emerge from below. We no longer trust our elected officials to make the just decisions. Many of us see little value in retaining a political or economic system that has bloodied our past and threatens our future. And so, we are seeking alternative solutions.

From Athens, to Tahir Square, to Tunis, people are pursuing new ways of living. Real power and change can only be brought about by those who have no power and have been stripped of their capacity to transform their own lives. In our context, these agents are working-class students, demoralized staff and over-worked faculty. No, Editor Spearman, we did not need to be arrested to know that we are “oppressed” – though a curious choice of words. We know oppression well and this is our response.

As a fellow student who has worked with CFA and other students to put together a great event such as the April 13th “Take Class Action,” it is very disheartening to me as a student, to read an article by another student about this event that says students are nothing but mere puppets. This is so sad because Spearman’s statements show no belief in your fellow students at all that we can put something together in solidarity with faculty on campus and do more than just lobbying. Your statements prove to me the sad ignorance that seems to perpetrate the world today of people who can do nothing better than to criticize and bring down the efforts of their fellow students.

I ask, “Who are you, and how dare you try to break down and belittle the greatness of these students who are actually doing something real, organizing, and fighting back while empowering others to do the same?” I challenge you to criticize the administration instead. I say, “Shame on you for such ignorance and hope that you enlighten yourself and have a little more trust and faith in your fellow students,” because honestly with all that you have illustrated, who can really take you seriously?

As a student organizer I was very offended to read your self-important article. Instead of using real journalistic ability and interviewing anyone from the rally, Spearman made ridiculous observations. Yes, the faculty originally planned the “Take Class Action” day but student activists took an initiative to join the coalition of faculty and staff that were planning the day. We demanded the opportunity to start a student march at 1 p.m.

As students we know whom we are angry at, and realize that bussing hundreds of students down to Long Beach to the Chancellor’s office isn’t realistic. So why not hold an open occupation at his satellite office on our very own campus, which was what actually happened in our campus, had Spearman paid attention.

Also, the demands were not made by CFA—had Spearman taken the time to actually read the material, she would have seen that students from all over the CSU system created them. Had Spearman taken the time to do some actual research she would have realized that East Bay was one of the eleven campuses to occupy their administration office on April 13th. So instead of insulting student organizers and students in general Editor Spearman, you should do your job and actually conduct interviews and research before you “take the initiative” to make false judgments.

Spearman’s article claimed it’s wrong for the faculty to tell students to “Know their rights.” This is cynical, as if the normal state of things is for the students to be blissfully unaware of fee hikes. Rights should only be known by an elite few, right? So the fees can be hushed through the voting process and made known after all opportunities to prevent it have past. No one objects to students learning their rights, however, our media objects to students acting upon them.

It also suggests that students have no will of their own, that they are at the beck and call of external forces, that any mere faculty involvement implies some disingenuous motive on their part. Every CSUEB student involved in that occupation knows this is false.

The article even states that the students lead the charge. That it was “unethical” for the faculty to hang back while the students occupied the office. The simplest explanation is: It’s the students doing the occupying, it’s the students who are the main driving force of this movement.