April 18, 2005

Student protest

Last Friday on campus, I began my morning the way I always do: buying a bagel and orange juice at the student snack bar. The weather was too beautiful for me to stay inside, though, so I headed out to the quad where students were beginning to congregate.

A group of students had set up tents on our quad - and on the quad of Snowstorm University next door to us. The students had protest signs and petitions to be signed. They'd been there all week. You can usually tell our students from the Snowstorm University students. Ours are the ones wearing tie-dye shirts. Many of the woman wear long colorful skirts, often with Birkenstocks, hemp jewelry, and maybe a hoodie. Many of the men have long hair, often with bright headbands or bandanas. I could spot almost every color of hair too, from bright pink to vivid blue, as well as white kids with dreds.

Several students had guitars and were just gathering to sit on the grass and play. I joined them. It felt wonderful to sit in the sun; our Aprils are usually rainy so the weather felt like a miracle. I ate my bagel, listened to folk music, and chatted with students. The music was waking up the people in the tents, and they emerged sleepily, with disheveled hair and blankets draped over their shoulders, stumbling into the library to use the bathrooms.

It was in the 40s when I began eating breakfast but closer to 60 by the time I was done. The day was heating up fast. Months of work that had led to this weeklong protest were over, and the students were feeling triumphant. In response to their demands, Snowstorm University had agreed that by July 1, at least 20 percent of its electrical energy would come from renewable resources. It's a start.

16 comments:

PPB said...

yay for them....the powers that be actually listened?

Lisa V said...

This is the stuff Daughter #1 can't wait for. Yay for kids bringing whatever positive change they can.

Friday Mom said...

Wonderful!

jo(e) said...

LisaV: Your stories about your oldest daughter always make me think she ought to come to school where I teach. She would fit right in.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

Wow. I can't imagine the students at TU sacrificing a night at the bar for ... well, anything. Very very cool.

Rhonda said...

Most days, your posts make me look forward to what I hope my first real job will be like. But this one made me think back to my college days. We have lots of protests at the school where I adjunct, but they never seem as nice, for lack of a better word.

profsynecdoche said...

This is such a terrific story. I'm so impressed.

Ianqui said...

Protests at the schools I've been at were never that effective. Sounds like you have a somewhat enlightened administration. Good for them, and you.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

Do they plan to continue the protest anyway simply because it is so much fun?

jo(e) said...

Rob: Well, this week is Earth Week so we've got a whole new set of protests and educational/awareness-raising stuff going on. With Bush in office, there are no shortage of issues for environmental activists to tackle.

grandma blue said...

To show you how self-absorbed the students at the "university" I went to were, they picketed in the school cafeteria for better food (this was at the height of the Vietnam war, around '69-'70). The food service people responded by giving more flavors of ice cream for dessert, and some other choice of entree, and the protest was immediately disbanded and everyone was happy.

jo(e) said...

Grandma Blue, that is just sad. Where I am at, there have been protests in the cafeteria. As a result, the dining halls now serve more vegan food (because eating lower on the food chain is ecologically responsible) and use re-usable tupperware instead of styrofoam for take-out meals.

I will say that as activists, my students are pretty impressive. It's one of the reasons I really love where I work.

grandma blue said...

I've been meaning to ask you about being a vegan. I keep thinking from time to time that I really want to be a vegetarian (okay, AFTER passover), and I know that it's so much more healthful to be a vegan, but I don't know if I could go without cheese and butter. do you ever miss them? Or were you always a vegan? do you ever get a hankering for some artery-clogger like fettucine Alfredo? I'm such a food freak (I read menus for pleasure) that I wonder if this would just be beyond me. Just curious.

jo(e) said...

Grandma Blue: Becoming vegan was a gradual process for me. I stopped eating red meat sometime in the 1980s. Then about nine years ago, I became vegetarian. Then after September 2001, I became vegan. I think I was influenced by my students.

I like reading vegetarian cookbooks like _Laurel's Kitchen_ or any of the Moosewood ones.

Sometimes when I smell meat cooking -- like my mother's pot roast -- I miss it, but I don't really miss the dairy. I am fine with soy milk and tofutti.

The hard part is reading tiny print on labels ...

grandma blue said...

Thanks for the answer! I'm sure your digestive system is grateful to you for not putting all that junk in your body. Once, for a week or so, I didn't have any dairy or meat, and I felt terrific (but I missed the dairy too much).

What Now? said...

Very cool. I'm happy to say that a few St. Martyr's students have this year gotten into protesting the death penalty, which is the first time our students have cared about anything other than abortion in years. And we've got a new environmental club that's sponsoring Earth Club activities this week; admittedly, they're not aiming much higher than recycling, but it's a start. I long for the day that they're sleeping in tents in their tie-dye t-shirts like your students!