By Brian Villalba
Let there be no more pepper spray. Let there be no more explosions of anger and fear. Let us all work together and fix our fiscal problems.
There have been two incidents recently of students getting pepper sprayed that were circulated on the Internet. The first video was from University of California, Davis in November, where students were sitting down peacefully protesting. A law enforcement officer used a Costco-sized pepper spray to smother the passive protesters.
Last Tuesday at Santa Monica College, there was a less passive, but by no means violent, protest over budget cuts and tuition increases. Videos broadcast by KTLA and journalists showed officers using pepper spray on the protesters.
There is no direct action in the videos that seemed to warrant the use of pepper spray other than a desire to break up the protest. It is easy to be angry at the officers involved in these pepper spray incidents, but let us not vilify the officers for their questionable judgment.
If you were a hammer, you would treat everything as if it was a nail? They have a particular skill set and an open collaborative political discourse is not one of them. They see a threat and they hit it, spray it and cuff it.
Some may get angry about that, but our law enforcement is not the villain here. Who should we to hold responsible for these types of grievances? It is definitely not the police. The villains are the administrators that have not been open to the huge wave of constituent concerns.
There are so many students and faculty that are completely cut out from participation in the process that they feel disenfranchised. Since the UC Davis incident in November, the budget cuts in California have made national news. It is a very controversial issue.
Are participants supposed to believe that administrators are surprised every time a large amount of people want to get into the discussions about the budget? Are constituents supposed to believe that administrators at SMC didn’t pick a small room deliberately to limit the amount of protesters that can be accommodated?
In the video broadcast by KTLA you will hear the protesters chanting “Let us in. Let us in. Let us in.” This is what happens when active constituents are disenfranchised. Administrators must not hide behind police and procedures.
This process is so dysfunctional that one student in the KTLA video can be heard saying that they won because they were pepper sprayed. They are so disenfranchised that the only way they can be heard is by a general appeal to the public with the help of pepper spray.
Getting pepper spray in your face is good for ratings, but not political progress. Political pressure will eventually force our educational institutions to address our needs and change policies to meet those needs. Administrators need to be courageous and make an effort to include those constituents that are desperate for a political voice.
It may seem to make administrator’s jobs more difficult, but did they really take this job because it was going to be easy? If they did, now they have their wake up call. This job is not easy. If it was, we could have the students do it.
To address the protests and prevent a more tragic incident from happening administrators must find a way to include the disenfranchised parties into the process.
Administrators may think it isn’t their job. Administrators may think it isn’t their responsibility, and they may be correct, but it would be prudent of the administration to go the extra mile and find a way.