As I crossed the footbridge the other day, my attention was immediately drawn to the lines of Band-Aids strung across the poles. When I read the notification posted on the bridge that described that the intention of the display was to represent the 51 murders in the City of Rochester last year and to “draw attention” to and then spur the public to “act on” the “problem” (which was never exactly defined), I was filled with a particular confusion and a relatively bad taste in my mouth.

When I discovered that a group of students sitting at the edge of the footbridge, seemingly responsible for the artwork, were sitting in silence for added effect, without mention of a proposal for what to do about this problem or how to make an active difference, my bad taste culminated in a general disgust.

As one of the many students not scared off by the horror stories that freshmen RAs tell their halls of the horrible pits of doom that may lie beyond the footbridge, I have no qualms about crossing the bridge – I think I have as much of a right to be randomly gunned down because of the catastrophic ignorance of society’s problems as anyone. Also, in a constant desire to combat this ridiculous notion of self-importance (which is the very same virtue of academia that I hold partially responsible for society’s afflictions), I would consistently oppose putting such displays on the footbridge – where, if anyone from the student body actually crossed today, he or she probably would not again for fear of upping the number from 51 to 52.

There are a million and one reasons why I find this display tasteless, but the biggest one is this: I am sure that those affected by the 51 murders in the city of Rochester do not need the grotesque display of Band-Aids hung on fishing wire or the overtly dramatic act of $46,000-a-year students sitting at the edge of the footbridge in silence in order to “draw attention” to the problem of violence and murder in their community. I am sure their grief and the tragic rupture of their world is enough attention. I am certain these people are well aware of this problem, and I am also certain that these people are most likely not you and me.

If the attempt of this display was to propagate non-violence, which is highly possible considering Gandhi’s arrival at the University and the ensuing increased popularity of such fashionable ideas, I think it is extremely necessary to understand that violence is not the entire issue here. The problem of violence is a human problem – the problems of poverty, famine, poor health care, poor housing opportunities, unemployment and addiction, among many others, are the problems of society. It is the societal problems that we are responsible for, not the glitter of idealism.

If the intention was to rattle the hearts and minds of the latent college student studying molecular biology in Tiernan whose last visit to the City of Rochester beyond the pathway by the river was to the small Indian store across the footbridge to buy booze, this method of protest to the continued violence in communities might be effective for the 20 to 30 seconds in which this image will radiate in their preoccupied brains.

However, if the intention was a call to change or was even supposed to communicate a semblance of taking action, this method will always be ineffective. I think it is time we acknowledged the fact that the majority of these murders and shootings took place where the majority of the students on this campus would feel queasy walking alone, and it’s time we understood the problem of violence from the perspective of the shooter and not the academic.

Don’t get me wrong – I think that student activism is maybe the one redeeming quality of academia, which tends to focus much more on the bettering of the self via the memorization of trivial facts, and I think the current trends of the student body, such as non-violence, sustainability, GLBT issues, etc. are much preferable to that of the lanyard (although comparable). I also credit those who put up the artwork for clarifying in their statement that “drawing attention” to the “problem” was not nearly enough, and we do indeed need to take action. But I think it’s extremely important for those of us who have the benefit of education and enough money to sustain ourselves to start brainstorming more practical and applicable ways to help and change the adverse effects of an ever-increasing disparity in class.

I hold us all responsible for this tragedy of culture. Dramatic displays of art and simultaneous silence are the last things we need. We should be yelling. We need to be focusing on what we can do to change the conditions of our world, and not what we can do to shock, frighten or even move or touch people into beginning to think about what a world outside of their own is like.

Fornarola is a member of the class of 2009.

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