Friday, April 28, 2017

ACT Demands Demonstrate Misguided Activism

By MAX FURIGAY  ’19 

NEWS EDITOR

Yesterday, a flyer was distributed all over the school; I am sure that everyone has seen at least one, since they are plastered over almost every wall on campus. The flyer is unrealistic, poorly thought-out, and unnecessarily pushy. It is the encapsulation of the “whiny liberal millennial” trope that makes people hate the liberal, progressive movement. And this sort of attitude is why Democrats lost the election. Liberals need to cut out this ivory-tower attitude if we want to gain any traction in America, but instead we seem to have moved backwards. This is not the proper manner to affect change. These in-your-face, nonsensical demands will not do anything but turn people off from any sort of progressive agenda.

Let me be clear: I support most of the demands. Some of them are great ideas: J-Term grants, expanded financial support, environmental initiatives, and efforts to increase retention rates of students of color are all noble, worthy causes that ought to be highlighted and championed. The problem is that these great ideas are buried behind some absolutely absurd demands. Also problematic is the tone of the list and the campaign in general. The entire thing is pushy to the point of disrespect. Finally, by equating the issue of the environment, which is urgent and undebatable, with controversial and far more extreme demands such as converting all bathrooms on campus to gender-neutral spaces, the letter loses people who may agree with the former but not with the latter. By throwing all the issues together, each is  weakened and the petition loses potential supporters. This is why I take issue with the list of demands.

Most importantly, is the infeasibility of the demands themselves.  Demanding that Trinity diversify faculty by making “fifty-percent of faculty and administration…of color and/or international,” is ridiculous. This ratio is not representative of Connecticut, the U.S.A., or the world. While there is a systemic issue with the amount of black professors in higher education as a whole, this is not an issue that employment choices at Trinity College can fix. Even if the College was to hire exclusively people of color for the next 10 years, this ratio could never be achieved thanks to tenure policies that even the most liberal institutions adopt. A 50% person of color ratio is impossible, and it is embarrassing for me as a liberal to see a demand like that next to something as urgent as environmental protection or expanded retention rates.

Demanding that Trinity release its financial statements is another nonsensical demand: all of these statements are published each financial quarter, and an extensive year-end summary is posted annually. This highlights another problem with the campaign: research behind the demands has not been done.

Some of the demands share the same issues as the Occupy movement a few years ago: they complain about a problem, but make no effort to fix it. For example, the demand regarding diversity and inclusivity training states a problem and demands that training be provided, but no specific programs or ideas are mentioned.

Some of the grievances are framed as rights when they simply do not have this status. I am speaking specifically about the demand for every single bathroom on campus to be gender neutral. Of course everyone has the right to feel safe when they use a restroom. But you can not ignore people who do not feel comfortable with the idea of 100% gender-neutral bathrooms. One must consider the rights of all in the situation, cisgender and transgender people alike. The problem is that the demand is without nuance. “Make gender neutral bathrooms available in all buildings” is far more reasonable. Instead, the list of demands decide to push it a step further and make a binary demand: all gender-segregated bathrooms must go. This is not ideal for many on campus.

Finally, the entire demand campaign is just so pushy — the letters were plastered all over the plaque on the Long Walk, dozens taped right next to each other in the cave — I just think that it is not the way to go about it. There is a right way to be an activist and still respect the institution of our College. Requests can be both forceful and respectful, and this campaign has gone over the line. Additionally, as an avid environmentalist, I noticed that taping ten duplicate demand lists up next to each other does seem to contradict demand number 10 (the environmental initiatives demand). The execution of this campaign was all wrong. We all need to work together to make our college better: racism, transphobia, xenophobia, and sexism are rampant issues on our campus. But these “demands” are not the way to address them.

This is how we Liberals lost the election: by pursuing policies, with closed-minds, that stray far from the blend of popular progressivism that liberals used to adhere to. Forcing bakers to bake cakes for gay weddings and forcing genders to integrate in locker rooms are militantly dogmatic policies, and they’re not something to be proud of. By refusing to come down from this idealistic frenzy, Democrats and liberals lost untold opportunities for social and fiscal progress this election. It needs to end before President Trump’s Congressional majority margin grows even wider.

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