17 April 2006

Stuff You Oughta Know...Before Starting a Sit-In

Originally, I meant to post more of a humorous take about students protesting at the University of Virginia. Last week, their wireless internet access was turned off, and outsiders were not allowed to bring food to the protesters. I admit it....I thought it was funny. How else would you expect to get today's students to fall into line? Take away their ability to play "Doom" online, of course.

Instead, I read today, that the 17 students involved in the sit-in were arrested for trespassing. Arrests are a lot less funny than missing internet access.

I remember a friend telling me about similar protests last year at another school. Her school is a private, Top 20 USN&WR school, where tuition and fees run over $40k per year. She thought it was ironic that the same students that were protesting the living wage (they were also protesting some employees lack of access to additional university benefits, like tuition reimbursement) would be the same ones protesting if the school had to raise tuition and fees to cover the costs of the additional wages and benefits. She also saw some degree of folly in students driving to the protest in their Eurpoean sports cars, funded by Daddy.

My gut says that the same thing is true at UVA. I am all for people standing up for what they believe, but all too often, those protesting know less about the issue at hand than anyone. They spend so much time spewing rhetoric that they forget that there are two sides to every issue, and consequences for their actions.

When I was a senior in high school, almost every student walked out and marched on the district's administration building. Our teachers picketed nearly every morning for about a month long period in the spring, fighting for higher wages. Who could possibly be against teachers making more money? More than that, what students wouldn't find any excuse to get out of class and take a nice leisurely walk through town in warming spring weather (wasn't like it was pouring rain the day we all did this!)? The reality was that we were pawns in the disagreement between our teachers and their employers. Did they deserve fair wages and benefits? Sure, but who was I to know what a fair wage was? Where would this additional money to pay for these added benefits come from? I didn't know -- I just knew that the girl who sat next to me in my Government class was kind of hot, and heck, if protesting meant spending the day with her and her hot friends, then I was all for it. Who says I can't take a stand on an issue?

I don't know any of the students that were arrested, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that I had a much more significant relationship with my teachers than any of these people have with the "underpaid" workers for whom they are fighting. I still recognize the folly of that protest years later.

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