We hear among our peers the struggles and fears that haunt them as they helplessly watch tuition increases pass semester after semester. They have much to say and express. But Thursday’s protest was unsuccessful at conveying that sentiment.
The poor turnout — about 300 at its peak — was not surprising: the protest was incredibly under-publicized and participation has been on the decline over the past year. This is evident by the growing proportion of fringe protesters. The movement as it is now has lost momentum, and we do not see it maturing in the near future.
The current model is failing in its ability to mobilize masses and educate those who stand to lose the most should further tuition increases occur — freshman.
The movement needs to reinvent itself beyond rallies on Upper Sproul and meetings huddled outside buildings. Every semester for the last four semesters, the campus has come together for a Day of Action for public education. This should continue, but in order to appeal to all, it must take on new forms like teach-ins, phone banks, campaigns and speaker series.
But the transformation cannot come solely from those currently leading the march. It must stem from leaders and public figures — ASUC executives, administrators, Academic Senate officials and state legislators. Students once flocked to see speakers like professor Robert Reich disscuss education during teach-ins. The ASUC Senate has endorsed protests in the past and student government officials have previously been visible members in rallying crowds. Where are those voices now?
We recognize those like professor Richard Walker, who came out Thursday, and thank them for their efforts. We understand why leaders may have chosen not to join in and why there is frustration with the movement’s direction. But to leave 35,000 students who are worried about public higher education without guidance and direction is a failure of leadership. Leaders perhaps do not attend rallies because they do not expect high student turnout, but their very absence is what propagates the lack of involvement.
It is time for our campus to come together and reignite the fire in students’ hearts that once drove thousands out to demonstrate. Without that flame, the protest movement and the voice of the campus will continue to wane.