Your goal to raise social awareness on campus is an admirable and necessary one. Human Rights Week was well done and deserves commendation. However, Students for Social Justice, many of your actions and efforts seem misguided.
Many Americans and UR students believe we need an exit strategy from Iraq, so you held the “Is Hindsight 20/20: Reflections on the Iraq War” panel designed to discuss the war. The Campus Times article about the event describes many statements of what went wrong, but only one idea about potential solutions. As pointed out in The Wall Street Journal on March 8 of this year, this panel contained three liberal faculty members. In your quest to achieve Social Justice, this one-sided forum seems like nothing more than a Kangaroo Court.
Instead of trying to sway the student body at UR with your very own shock and awe campaign of bloodied corporate big-shots carrying coffins, why not try to sway the United States Congress with a letter-writing campaign about the same issue? You proclaim that you do not support any political party, but that you work towards the goals of Social Justice both at home and abroad. Certainly there are individual members of Congress who support these goals of Social Justice?
Perhaps you could conduct fund-raisers on campus and donate the money to these campaigns. Move the event off campus into the city at rush hour and collect money from motorists at traffic lights who support your cause. This would raise not only student awareness of your issues, but awareness of the entire city of Rochester.
Your counterargument is likely, “We want to mobilize the grassroots.” This is not enough. The College Democrats and College Republicans mobilize the grassroots on campus and manage to register voters, knock on doors in support of candidates, donate to campaigns and attend conferences. This approach comes across as a much more productive form of achieving one’s goals. Regardless of what one thinks about the College Democrats or Republicans, it is difficult to argue that registering voters is not helping their cause and the greater societal good.
You spend an impressive amount of effort in an attempt to gain the attention of the student body and having the eyes and ears of the populace is important to broadcast your message.
Some of the methods you use are clearly controversial, such as your campaign against ITT and Northrop Grumman and the related sit-in at the career fair. Your actions and especially your recent panel gained a lot of attention, including negative attention from the national media. The more moderate members of the UR student body feel similarly. Why work so hard for recognition in this manner, when there is so much respect to be gained by making a real difference? By promoting a Congressional candidate who sides with you on worker’s rights, one of your core issues, you positively affect national policy.
An effect of this magnitude would certainly increase your membership and awareness of your cause at the university. As The Wall Street Journal suggests, a panel with a liberal member, conservative member and moderate member would do much more to enrich citizen and student knowledge of Social Justice than your panel.
By providing all different sides of an argument, you risk giving people the information they need to disagree with you and possibly rise against you.
Those who choose to agree with you, however, will be much more likely to take action and feel strongly about their beliefs if they are given the opportunity to become truly educated on an issue.
Chenenko can be reached email@example.com.