Monday, November 18, 2013

Student Guest Post: Fighting for the right to fight for our rights

Momentum is building against the efforts by the CUNY central administration to restrict protest. Last Thursday the PSC Delegate Assembly passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of CUNY's new draft policy on Expressive Activity arguing that it is unnecessary in the face of existing policies and is designed to continue CUNY's long history of attempting to stifling protest (text of the resolution to follow soon). In the latest instance of this, the administration of CCNY continues to harshly punish 2 of their students involved in protesting the closure of the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Student and Community Center. The two students have been suspended without a hearing, denied access to Spring registration, and turned over to local police for criminal prosecution, for their participation in non-violent protest activities at the college. 

Below is a response to CUNY's attempt to limit student protest from BC Political Science major and student government representative Paolo Cremidis.

            CUNY’s student body and nascent student movement is being assaulted by the forces of standardization and control in many different manners. From Pathways and the waste of money that is CUNYfirst, to the CUNY draft policy on expressive activity, our identity as students is being assaulted.  The draft policy on expressive activity does nothing to ensure the real safety and security of students. The idea that expressive activity is a threat to security is absurd, and does not assure that student grievances are addressed. It’s almost as if the administration does not want to deal with the grievances of students or implement solutions to our problems. It is initiatives like this draft policy that often lead to unnecessary confrontation between student groups and the administration.  

            What we are being told is that we should somehow compartmentalize our collective attitude as a student body and deny ourselves the constitutional right to assemble. This policy, by implementing protest zones, and allowing individual administrations to stop simple activities such as leafleting or tabling, is washing its hands of the very real problems that CUNY faces. This is nothing but an attempt to make sure that we stay divided as a student body. Yes there is a concern for safety, but there should be input from the students, faculty, and staff in order to create a framework for building college community. There should not be any mistakes made about the fact that student activism will happen even if this policy is implemented. Students will always assert their constitutional right to protest.

            It seems to me that there is a large disconnect as to how this policy of restricting student activism is helpful to the college community, This seems contrary to what a University should be doing to ensure a well-rounded educational experience for all students. Universities are institutions built to ensure that the students within them receive an education that exposes them to the world. What this policy fails to take into account is the fact that before college many of us are not exposed to the politics that form our minds. Therefore this policy, in restricting the right to protest is hobbling the education we receive at CUNY.

If the Board of Trustees believes that curtailing expressive activity will somehow stop activism they are wrong. Activism is not a tool that people can only use when given space; it is a structure that allows activist to right the wrongs of society. There is nothing to be gained by trying to shut out the voice of the students in a University. As a matter of fact that thought alone seems illogical, and will not work. All it does is galvanize students to strive and restore that which our predecessors fought for. This policy will ensure that we have a grievance with which to build upon and ask the questions that CUNY will not answer directly. Just like workers have the right to organize, students have that right too, and any attempt to prevent that is an attack on our constitutional rights. Political activism is not built upon the idea that we must always adhere to the existing structures of political discourse to bring about a point. Unfortunately, for issues like student debt that is not possible, and to stifle activism on campuses will make it even harder to fight against rising tuition and student debt.

The CUNY administration might think that banning yelling on the quad might stop student activism, but when you tell a student how to act and even how to think you will get the opposite. As a Political Science major, I can tell you that learning about government is not just about sitting in a classroom with a textbook. There are lessons to be learned by engaging in the current events of the world and fighting the injustices that must be addressed. I would hope that those who drafted this policy would see how it does nothing to ensure a well-rounded education for students. The board can ban activism, but activism will not let itself get banned.

Fraternally yours,

Paolo Cremidis
Member of the CLAS student assembly

No comments:

Post a Comment