Right to Protest
In the recent times, we hear of protests and marches on TV-News channels, Social Media and other sources. It is in our tendency to either sympathize with the protesters or critique them for their actions.
Current political climate in most nations of this world dictates a bi-partisan, radical outlook where either you are with them or against them. I suppose mediators and negotiators and skeptics will be out of job soon. If not, they will certainly be unpopular and ignored subsequently. With absolutely no “skin-in-the-game”, we are SUPPOSED TO not just form an opinion but also publish it out in the world for countless others like us to contemplate on.
Recently, Resource, our university’s beloved magazine published a historical account of “Wageningen Spring protest” of 1980. This was an earnest account of the nature of policies and students’ reaction to these policies in the Wageningen University of 20th Century. I was very fascinated by this article. It sheds some light on the turmoil that WU went through to get where it is today regarding its research attitude and educational policies. I find myself admiring the students, the staff and the officials who were involved in those historical struggles. The way the policies were made, the way the students reacted, the politics involved and the way in which the staff and the officials tried to mitigate the whole issue is a gripping story.
In contrast to that, nowadays, we seldom see a protest of a march, much less an occupation of a university building in Wageningen University. This MAY BE a great thing and we can all believe that our university has so far managed to keep students and staff happy OR MAYBE, students of our university are not bothered much by the on-goings of the university. If I were to guess, I would say that it is somewhere in the middle.
Protesting is not just a right but also a responsibility.
Since most of the policies and the educational environment that our university creates are conducive to student’s welfare, most students are happy to accommodate minor inconvenience as a show of good faith. Sometimes things get sticky and students respond by commenting, providing feedback and writing articles or blogs without resorting to any form of outright public protest.
On top of that, there is the WUR student council and WUR staff council which work in the direction of student and staff welfare throughout the academic year. Both councils seem to have great pull when it comes to weighing in on policy changes. As far as student council is concerned, I have experienced and enjoyed the election procedure as a voter. I also appreciated the proposition of the various agendas that these enthusiastic fellow students and student council members put forth. In relevance to my background, I think this council has done some important work regarding international student welfare. Don’t get me wrong, there are miles to travel before a perfect balance is achieved.
Why writing this article?
The reason I decided to write about this is because a fellow international student and a friend of mine went through an unusual incident in the past couple of months. He/ She were tied in a battle with some of WU staff regarding some issues with finance and study program. After several back and forth of email war, long and short meetings, he/ she decided that they are going on a hunger strike outside the offices until their demands are met. Fortunately, the issue was resolved when the student made his/ her intentions clear and there was no damage done.
In my opinion, the WU officials involved acted promptly and sympathetically to the situation and the whole issue was resolved. At first, the officials were firm on their decision and did not budge an inch. But when the student was about to break apart, they decided that this stance was not necessary and quickly made room for a compromise. I consider it a great defusal kit that our university possesses. While I admire the student’s bravery regarding his/ her plight, I also find myself admiring the university’s response. I wonder whether the past turmoil that the university faced had some role to play in the way this situation was handled.
In my opinion, the WU officials involved acted promptly and sympathetically to the situation and the whole issue was resolved.
Although I will not like any harm done to our beloved university, I believe that there needs to be some pushback by students (and staff alike). This force should be healthy and in form of non-violent and quiet protest and more importantly, for the benefit of the whole institution. It should help create better and better solutions for all the personnel involved. Any malicious behavior will neither augment the existing beliefs and ideas that our university cherishes nor will it help shape a better future for anybody.
I think it will be a good exercise of public freedom and public platform for voices to be heard and compromises to be made.
Protesting just because we can, is never good but neither is indifference. I know that it is a great ask, especially for students since they have to deal with their study load along with a full timetable. It is also a bit unfair and will lead to headaches for the university officials who face these protests. But in the long run, I think it will be a good exercise of public freedom and public platform for voices to be heard and compromises to be made. Protesting is not just a right but also a responsibility. After all, wasn’t that how all social institutions were created?