We are roughly a month into the semester and three protests have already ensued on our University’s campus, and rightfully so. The most recent one near campus, being The Walkout for Climate Change, emphasized on-campus activism after following the protests regarding the homophobia and racism that had been resurfacing within the U’s community. Thankfully, the earlier of the two protests have been met with actual change: the firing of a homophobic faculty member, and a met call for accountability in the wake of another hate crime.
Some would argue that the takeaway from these events should be an increase of tolerance within the community. But, others would say that a push for tolerance is the issue. The emphasis on tolerance is problematic because the definition within itself bears a lack of understanding. Although it is important to make space for what you may not understand yet, it is still your responsibility as a cog in the UA’s machine to try to understand its other parts. Jiddu Krishnamurti said that “tolerance merely indicates the desire to cling to your own… limited ideas and prejudices, and allow another to pursue his own. In this tolerance, there is no intelligent diversity, but only a kind of superior indifference. There is utter falsity in this tolerance. You say, 'You continue in your own way, and I shall continue in mine; but let us be tolerant, brotherly.' When there is true brotherliness, friendliness, when there is love in your heart, then you will not talk of tolerance.” The takeaway should be a desire for understanding, awareness, and support that intertwines communities rather than separates them based on predetermined interest.
Wildcat students protesting over the last couple of weeks is meaningful for a many reasons. One of them being that it proves students do actually have a say in campus administration does and how things can be ran moving forward. Dr. Dull’s homophobic comments and the assualt on a black student at the University should raise alarms for everyone.These incidents should not be taken lightly and the protests put the people responsible on a hot seat. Whenever a protest happens, you should do more research into the incident that sparked it. After all, we are paying thousands of dollars in tuition. We should all be informed of what is going on, and more importantly, feel safe enough to come to school everyday. As Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
The Arizona Youth Climate Strike was on Friday, September 20, at Presidio Park. The strike consisted of many groups from UA’s campus, including NextGen, the Tucson branch of the national activist group that encourages and mobilizes youth to get out and vote and the Tucson branch of Defend Our Future, a non-profit, non-partisan activist group focused on spreading awareness and creating solutions to climate change.The night before the Arizona Youth Climate Strike, I attended a poster-painting night for the protest, and I had the opportunity to speak to some participants in the demonstration. “I would say the protest means basically securing our future,” said Kyle Kline, one of the Tucson co-coordinators for the AZ Youth Climate Strike. “I think it encapsulates a lot of youth voices on the issue… I’m passionate about a lot of different issues, and we can work towards better education, eliminating poverty, all of these different types of goals, but we can’t do anything like that if we don’t have a planet to live on.” I also asked Kyle who he was trying to reach through the strike. “I think this strike is the first move to get Tucson as a city involved in the climate movement… The big goals of the movement are to both get Tucson to declare a climate emergency, and to actually create and enact a climate action plan.” I admire everyone who stood up and took part in this strike, whether they helped organize, made posters, or showed up to support the demonstration, both in Tucson and nationally because it means that people are becoming aware, and with awareness change can take place. Getting the attention of our politicians and people in power, but also of average citizens so we may educate and empower them are essential steps in securing our future.
Universities hold a lot of power, something that is often barely discussed in relation to students. The means of resisting that power are typically minimal and students are left in the midst of an institution no longer representing or protecting them. The Black Student Union recently organized protest in response to the assault of a black student who was physically and verbally assaulted through racial slurs. Responding with protests and numbers is often the best and most impactful means of reacting to an instance of violence and injustice. Solidarity is what students have to fight back against universities, who they’ve poured immense resources into and therefore, a right to determine its operations. But, in light of all the protests, one takeaway is seeing solidarity in action despite the limited means of change available to students in an institution they contribute to. In order to change the university we take part in everyday, these kinds of actions are necessary especially for students given little voice in shaping it.
Women’s March, March on Washington, Stonewall. All of these protests have become monumental to understanding how standing for what you believe in can result in others sitting down and finally listening to you.There is a sort of power behind protests' and what they can do to help a community of people become more comfortable in the spaces they exist within. Whether it be about race, religion, ethnicity or gender, all of these forms of identity are homes people belong to and deserve to feel comfortable within. When I first visited at the University of Arizona, many of the tour guides and administrators kept repeating that the school was going to be my new ‘home away from home’ and although some events in the past 2 weeks have come to challenge that, because of the reaction from the UA family I believe it is completely true. No matter what college you go to, there will always be people who aim to marginalize and others and this can cause people to feel uncomfortable and hurt but the only way that trust can be rebuilt is by doing something.By standing up.Maybe by walking a feet or two.How the university reacted to these acts is exactly what makes it a home. The students who made posters, took part in the protests or just verbally showed their support, took a stand.There will always be marches, protests and retaliation against violence but as a student body it is our job to make everyone feel safe.To make sure everyone feels at home.