Protests Gone Too Far: An Argument Against Sensationalist Tactics

By Marissa Berrier

This piece is a response to a series of protests that have been hurtful to students during my time at Beloit College: the most recent, of course, being the posters displayed by the Concerned Students for Policy Change.  I believe that it behooves those of us who advocate for change on campus to be thoughtful, compassionate, and understanding in our efforts. While passion for a cause is all well and good, if we are adversely affecting our community when the ends do not justify the means.

Passion is important but we have to control it. Blind passion can only hurt a cause and give fodder to opponents. There is a difference between ranting to friends and putting up materials for the entire campus to see. Many seem to treat The Round Table as they would their blogs and rant, react defensively, and submit work that lacks coherency. In my experience with the recent protests over hate speech and last year’s sexual assault awareness campaign this seems to be true of much, but not all, of the work submitted.

While I understand that some do not take The Round Table seriously as a forum for discussion, I feel that submitting works that attack is inappropriate for a serious discussion. If anyone is hoping to prove discussion about their issue then they should treat all of their materials seriously, do research on the subject and attempt to submit a good, logical, well-written argument. I have never submitted any of my work for public viewing or made public statements on an issue until a neutral third party has reviewed it. This piece in particular has been reviewed several times by students and staff in order to make it as calm, rational, logical, coherent, and un-inflammatory as possible considering the topic. I have also read all of the material available.

As activists, we have a responsibility to check our facts, cite our sources, and place things in context. It is inappropriate to use quotes, percentages, facts, and, stories out of context. Furthermore, hearsay and rumors should be avoided as much as possible. In dealing with charged topics such as sexual assault or racism we must pay special attention to how victims feel about our messages. Above all else there must be a calm discussion, not a charged flurry of propaganda. We must be responsible in our protests and consider how our protest will effect the entire campus environment. How will professors view our activism? How will the cleaning and food service staff, whose members come from many minority groups, feel about our actions?

To those who have protested in the past and those who plan to in the future, I ask that you conduct yourselves with decorum and that you accept responsibility for your actions. Do not act with blind passion, but seek to provoke thought. Be passionate, stand up for your beliefs, but do not trample over others’ feelings to do so. It is insensitive at best and hypocritical at worst to demand others modify their behavior based on your feelings while informing them that you do not care about theirs.
It is unfortunate that these campaigns were conducted in the way they were; these issues are important and should be discussed productively.  If the Concerned Students host a forum, I plan to attend. I don’t like the methods they used to get my attention, but I care about hearing what they are trying to say. However, it will be very difficult to have a forum about racial issues on campus without the aftereffects of these protests tainting the discussion. People will remember what upset them and the result will be illogical and angry, instead of well thought out. The sensationalist and inappropriate activism is what is being discussed, not the issues themselves, and that is the real shame.



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