On The UCSD BSU’s demand to “shutdown the University”   1 comment


My immediate friends with whom I’ve discussed the boldest portion of the BSU statement have all been upset to hear of such a notion.  The demand in question reads,

“We have demanded that the Chancellor shutdown the University until they can come up with a clear plan of action to ensure that this type of behavior does not happen again.”

Students who are paying lots of money and are working within time constraints to achieve their goals are understandably aghast at such a demand, and I believe that quote is the one that’s going to get thrown around in backlash against the BSU’s movement. It would take extreme circumstances to shut down the school, and I don’t believe there is a consensus that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened this time. It looks like an egregious misstep by the BSU, out of touch with the needs of the student body and only interested in attracting attention, at first glance. I am not convinced that they are simply trying to make as big of a deal out of anything as they can, but I do agree with Chancellor Fox that this situation is not serious enough to warrant shutting down the school.

The demand to shut down the school was not one of the original 32 demands that the BSU made to the administration after the “Cookout” and Koala incidents, so it seems that the Geisel noose incident is what prompted this new demand. Shutting down the school sounds like an extreme measure, justifiable only by imminent danger, and seemingly too drastic for there not having been any violence related to this incident. I don’t think the BSU sees it this way. The BSU is claiming imminent danger as alluded to in this quote:

“When peoples lives are being threatened on a daily basis, there should be a general consensus to stop the function of the very institution perpetuating such actions.”

I am disappointed that the BSU statement didn’t specify how people’s lives are being threatened on a daily basis, because that leaves this assertion unsubstantiated. When you make a claim, you have to support it. I will suppose that the threat on people’s lives is a reference to the noose found in Geisel, but I do not understand the “daily basis” claim. If there is evidence behind such things happening everyday, it must be presented so people can specifically point to it.

Some people do not see the Geisel noose incident as a threat on life, but I have already argued in a previous post that it has to be considered in this way. I meant and specified that it has to be treated as a serious threat initially, to protect students, but since the suspect has turned herself in, much more information behind the intent should be forthcoming. If it is satisfactorily understood that no threat on life was intended, but rather it was attention seeking or a truly inexplicable ignorance of the gesture’s symbolism, then there was never a threat on life. Nonetheless, the fact that it made certain students feel unsafe needs to be taken seriously.

Having detained the Geisel noose suspect the morning after the incident occurred, it seems as though UCSD police are doing an adequate job of protecting students and that safety is a priority. Some students can’t help but feel threatened by acts like the Geisel noose, and this is understandable, but I think it’s just as understandable that the police have done a good job in maintaining safety. I don’t believe the general student body is at all in favor of shutting down the university or can see how that could possibly help the BSU in satisfying their demands. It is a demand seemingly without a positive consequence, but is most likely based on the safety issue.

In response to the administration asking the BSU for more time in meeting their demands, the BSU statement reads:

“There is no more time when peoples lives are at stake and the very students that help contribute most to the good name of this university are the ones that do not feel safe.”

This is a controversial sentence, and take it for what you will, but the part I will examine now is again, the emphasis on lives being at stake. There has been no violence and there hasn’t even been a person confirming that they have threatened anyone related to this saga, but that does not change how black students feel. Living in fear is not acceptable, but while the campus police and administration have to do everything they can for student safety, each individual student must make an effort to understand the measures being taken for his/her safety and gather as much information as possible on any perceived threat. I wouldn’t have much of an excuse if you reached out to shake my hand and I reacted as though you were trying to stab me with a knife. I have a job to examine whether you are my friend.

On the other hand, think of scenarios in which institutions are shut down. At public high schools, if there is a perceived threat, a gunman on campus or other dangerous person, the school goes on lockdown. The doors are shut and locked, students retreat under desks, activity stops until the threat is deemed neutralized. I’ve experienced several high school lockdowns and no violence ever occurred, but the presence of danger on campus warranted the seizure of academic activities for the period of time it took to make sure students were safe.

At airports, if a suspect is discovered to have explosives or other weapons, it could warrant the shutdown of the airport. Flights will be delayed if not cancelled, terminals will cease non-security related activity, and the entire airport will effectively be shut down to deal with the threat. If I was going to get on a plane, but heard there was a bad guy with a bomb in the airport, I would have to agree with actions to stop the airport’s usual activity until they were sure the danger was eliminated.

What I believe the BSU has called for is a similar type of lockdown in reaction to a high school gunman or airport bomber-type scenario. Feel free to call this an overreaction, I personally do not agree with the demand to shut down the school, but consider the BSU’s perception of the matter. A noose is a very powerful symbol, and even if they’re not being left daily, it represents a threat on students’ lives to some degree. The actual intent behind it and the type of violence it may have signaled can be disputed, but the BSU has interpreted it with all seriousness. They appear to see it as an imminent threat, as bad as a gunman on campus. It might as well have been a pipe bomb hanging from the bookcase in Geisel as far as the BSU’s reasoning appears to go.

While I think the details of the Geisel noose suspect’s apprehension and questioning need to be taken into full consideration before such a serious action as shutting down the school is demanded, we can’t help it if the BSU feels their lives are in danger. If you feel like your life is in danger, it doesn’t matter whether or not it really is, you’re going to want every possible protection available. The perception you’re under doesn’t have to correspond to a situation in reality for you to want to demand drastic measures for your protection be taken. I believe that the BSU’s statement is an indication that they feel they are subject to this type of imminent danger.

I have tried to gather as much information as I could about the Geisel noose incident, from chatter around campus, emails from campus police, and other media reports, and do not think it represents an immediate threat on students’ lives. I do not want the school to be shut down, I do not think there is sufficient reason to shut the school down. I think the BSU has a responsibility to understand the Geisel noose case as completely as possible as well as any other situation that has or will occur.

This is not over, the noose was not the final inciteful incident. The administration is absolutely dreading a case of actual violence, and for that matter, so am I and so is every person associated with this school. There is a palpable fear of something like that happening, but perceived threats need to be examined closely, and we are not to live in fear. It is each of our’s individual responsibility to know when we are in danger and when we are not, not just to cower and make demands when something spooks us. I understand that the BSU made their demand thinking they were in real danger, but would like to see them pursue a more complete understanding of every aspect of the incident before reacting in such an extreme way. Their core goals are still good, but I think some actions they are taking are not representative of that spirit.

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One response to “On The UCSD BSU’s demand to “shutdown the University”

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  1. Pingback: UCSD News: Obama Presents Fox with Medal of Science « Tritonthink

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