Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Activist Struggle Matters

We live in a world of complacency. Yep, we do. Activism, as people experience it, is largely facebook invites to talk about your bra in honor of breast cancer research and e-mails. Some people are certainly more involved than this, but we're in an age of apathy. Don't deny it.

Whenever I hear the terms "post-racial" or "post-feminist" or whatever, I want to smack someone. Of course there are still problems. Denying them by saying things like, "America has a Black President, which means racism doesn't exist" is erasing both the history of struggles the African American community has faced, and minimizes the real and potent effects of racism that are experienced every day by lots of people.

For this reason, my University and I are in a fight. This is like a married-couple's fight, because while I love my school and all the opportunities I have had as an undergrad, I don't like the way they do some things. Like balance their budget.

Temple University has decided to take interdisciplinary programs (Women's Studies, LGBT Studies, Jewish Studies, American Studies, Asian Studies, and Latin-American Studies), dissolve their administration, and make them "tracks" within other departments. While this has a lot of implications, one of the first that many students and professors I've talked to have brought up is that these are programs mostly born out of Civil Rights-era struggles to make education more inclusive. And cutting back on programs that deal with marginalized populations kind of feels like an affront to these struggles for diversity.

So a couple students and I have been trying to organize against this. We made a facebook group (473 members), made a petition on (497 signatures), and have been urging people to write to the Dean of CLA and express their displeasure. (I did this. I wrote a 5 page letter. I also included statistics.) People aren't happy about this. I spoke at an interdisciplinary event celebrating interdisciplinarity that was mostly professors, and opened my bit by saying, "If you have a facebook, you might know that I'm not happy about the interdisciplinary cuts," which was met with applause from the faculty. (Professors have facebooks now.) As a student, I have a lot more freedom to talk about this than they do. But in a meeting with the Dean, she told us that there wasn't really anything we could do about it, because the changes were happening anyway. They were real, but we didn't have to be happy about them.

So we've been trying to be unhappy in a really public way. There's been a little local coverage, but we decided that before the semester is over, we should do one last thing to stick it to them. Which is where inspiration from Billionaires for Bush came in.

One of my professors suggested the group to me, so I came up with "Students for Budget Cuts" and got together with my other student-organizer friends, and we organized a demonstration. The idea is that we sarcastically/sassily "support" budget cuts and shine a light on the reality of what is going to happen. Our first date got rained out (posters melt in the rain) which probably had an effect on attendance, but we persevered, came up with a new date, and made a little ruckus in the middle of campus. And we were pleased that the Dean of CLA spontaneously walked through our demonstration. Oh, yeah, she knows we're not happy.

one side of the demonstration

In the spirit of which these programs were created, we're not going to give up on trying to save them. A lot of the people who have been really involved in the past month are graduating seniors, but I have no intentions of just accepting this next year as a senior. I'm going to continue making noise. After all, it rarely works out that minority studies are just handed more funds or space. We have to fight for it, and we will continue to do so.


  1. If someone wanted to write to the Dean, what address should they use?

    Keep at it!