UCSD 2010: Cookout, Koala, Walkout, Noose   Leave a comment

It’s been a wild two weeks here at UCSD. From the “Compton Cookout” to the current rallies and demands from the BSU, the landscape has shifted dramatically, and the direction and momentum have taken interesting turns.

While the original party planners of the “Compton Cookout” were responsible for the eruption of racial incidents and demonstrations here at UCSD, they BSU has made it clear that this is not an issue about one off-campus party, but an institutional bias against certain minorities. Accordingly, the party planners have slipped out of focus and I wouldn’t expect for them to resurface. I’m sure they’re thankful that the BSU has decided the institutional problem requires that they protest the administration as a top priority. It is interesting that the people who ignited this whole saga no longer have any type of significant role, merely having their punishment pending, and in my opinion, unlikely.

The internet personality that decided he wanted to get publicity from this situation won’t be named, but his YouTube video is widely discredited and dismissed. However, he is significant as an example of the type of opportunism people will employ given the pervasiveness of this issue. I was unhappy to see the Union Tribune report his side of the story, and the Tribune in general has lost credibility in my eyes when it comes to UCSD and racial incidents. They’re the Daily Prophet from Harry Potter.

The Koala SR-TV episode certainly fueled the flames, but even they’ve had some degree of fade from the spotlight in recent days. The funding freeze may have something to do with that, but expect them to resurface unlike the frat boys. The Koala made sloths out of the UCSD administration, whose slow and insufficient response was too slow to mitigate the damage of what the Koala was sure to do. With the school-wide media funding freeze, AS President Gupta has shown himself to not be a people’s president and overall an aloof bonehead. He clearly is an enemy of the Koala, and even though he’s the president, he hasn’t been able to really do anything to finish them off. It’s like Gupta is Sideshow Bob trying to kill Bart Simpson. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to kill him, and his plans aren’t bad in theory, but we know the Koala’s going to be alive and well by the end of the episode.

The media has become a much bigger player in the “Cookout” saga, and I don’t take this to be a good thing. The administration keeps hoping that another aggravation doesn’t occur, and are hoping against hope that an instance of violence from any side doesn’t take place. The way the media is covering this, the media is on the media’s side. They are not on the administration’s side, they are not on the BSU’s side. They will report whatever they think will make people watch and/or read, and use language and distort facts to accomplish this. Bigger player, spreading the story across the country, but bigger problem, misrepresenting all sides and looking out for themselves first and foremost. I see these guys at the protests and rallies, and I can’t believe they report what they do when they see the same things I see.

Non-professional internet forums have started to gain footholds in this saga as well. Facebook groups formed by the BSU, that support the BSU entirely, that think their demands are ridiculous, that think the whole issue is no big deal, or who have any opinion whatsoever are tallying up members. I like to follow the UC Regents Live WordPress blog, which reports on all the UC’s, but as UCSD is especially active, they get lots of attention. Comments sections of news articles are also a form of the internet getting its say in, and from what I’ve read there isn’t an overwhelming air of support. Many internet commenters seem to think that this is all no big deal or that it’s all a ploy for attention. Not that they’d expect it, but I wouldn’t say that the BSU has a consensus of support amongst people who write things on the internet. That’s not their concern, and I’m sure they’d say that’s merely an indication of the bigger problem they’re trying to fix.

But while mobilization efforts and maintaining an enthusiastic basis of support have been strengths of the BSU thus far, they haven’t been perfect. Of course no one’s perfect, and the tremendous task they are attempting and the huge amount of attention make this no easy job- of course they can’t do everything perfectly. However, some of their actions and demands might appear particularly egregious to otherwise would-be supporters.

Again, this is not the BSU’s problem, they want what they want and need make no apologies for their desires. Demands such as free tutoring, more African Americans on campus effectively immediately, and especially shutting down the school until their demands are met, are not going to attract widespread support. Repeated use of anti-American speakers may not gain them widespread support. Acting roguishly without consulting the base of support’s aims, and not caring about how previous undecided outsiders will view your demands, is not typically a good strategy. I understand that this is a “racial state of emergency”, and that bold decisions from the leadership need to be made in emergencies, but unfamiliarity and poor understanding of reality are what the BSU is rallying against. I don’t think this is a “fight fire with fire” situation.

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing institutional change or pushing for benefits such as free tutoring or a special space on campus. If that’s what you feel you need, that’s what you have the right to ask for. To “demand” is a somewhat different story, especially with seemingly little acknowledgment of certain financial, or even legal restrictions. I understand that the BSU has to provide an answer to “or else what?”, because there’s little reason for the administration to give into demands that are expensive, a lot of work, and controversial to an assumed majority, to please less than 2% of the campus. They have presented their leverage in terms of protests and the numbers that attend them, as well as trying to use the media, which seems to have its own motivations.

However, the BSU may be leaving itself vulnerable to very powerful counter-attacks by being brash and arguably unreasonable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the administration strike back and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are able to use a very logical line of reasoning. Consistency then becomes key for the BSU, to not change its mind or operate with conflicting philosophies on equitable issues. They don’t have to care that their numbers are relatively small, they don’t have to care what the majority thinks, they don’t have to care about financial, bureaucratic, time, or even legal limitations that the administration claims it has to work within. But if they choose to take that attitude, they have to be careful of whether and how that attitude applies to their support base. Does the BSU also not have to care if every potential supporter doesn’t agree with every demand? Do they have to care if many demonstrators don’t want the school shut down? Again, caution and thoughtful strategy are the friends of all in this situation. While accusing the administration of not understanding, not caring, and not wanting to deal with reality, it’s critical that the BSU doesn’t practice those very “not”s.


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