Compton Cookout: Rules of the Game   Leave a comment

Things seem to have calmed down over the weekend, no inflammatory incidents and no protests. A dreary weekend in San Diego is a real momentum killer, and the BSU’s movement appears, for now, to be dormant with the signing of an agreement by the administration to meet their demands. Implementation looks to be a mostly internal and behind the scenes deal. While this armistice of sorts is in effect, some review and reflection might be helpful. My US-Latin American Relations professor, Peter Smith, has emphasized “rules of the game” regarding the rationale and behavior of actors in a realm, and I think such a concept is applicable to this situation.

Rules of the game: These rules are not formally agreed upon terms within whose restraints actors must behave, but rather observations of what types of behavior have been displayed and met without discouraging consequence. There is a sense in which the Cookout saga is a game.

1. Disrespect is tolerated without formal reprimand between student organizations or toward quasi/government (UCSD administration, police, Student council, etc), but not from government. BSU leaders can call administrators dumb and declare their efforts “bullshit” without any fear of consequence. Students or student organizations may throw racist parties, react emotionally to them, instigate further animosity, and otherwise speak demeaningly of each other without any government-type organization stepping in to mete out punishment.

1.2. Language is not restricted- instigators may be racist, protesters may declare “bullshit” over amplified sound in the presence of children, commentators on both sides may use whatever language they see fit to describe their position, and the reaction to such language is more language, with no one backing down. Freedom of speech is honored, and met with more speech, productive or not.

2. Constitutional rights need only be observed by the UCSD administration and police- the BSU does not need to acknowledge freedom of speech to anyone that offends them and Associated Students President Utsav Gupta need not recognize freedom of the press. Each others’ rights need not be payed lip service, but the administration must not violate Constitutional rights when considering punishment. All others may posture and deny that others have a right to behave how they have been behaving.

3. Official punishment is minimal, if it exists. The “Cookout” planners do not appear to be in line for any formal punishment, the noose hanger was suspended, which the BSU considers light, and criminal charges have not been filed as of yet, the KKK hood leaver has not been caught because he/she/they do not want to be, protesters may occupy halls, Chancellor’s offices, and traffic-heavy streets without being arrested. The administration and police appear to have very minimal power to discipline anybody, which emboldens and agitates different actors. As long as the tensions remain peaceful, there is no fear of the law or other scribed rules.

4. Violence is not on the menu of available tactics to any group involved. The BSU will protest in large numbers, but violence will not be carried out by any of their supporters. The Koala will deliberately antagonize all available groups and individuals, but will not carry out an act of violence. Real or perceived threats of a noose or KKK hood have, as of yet, had no violent followup. There is an understanding that representatives of a groups using violence would be handing valuable leverage to their opponents. There is plausibility in the theory that some groups are attempting to draw a violent response from others in order to gain an upper hand.

5. The BSU is under certain protections from the administration and professional media. While the frat boys, the Koala, and the school itself are all under fire, the BSU has faced no explicit criticism from the administration or professional media. Some professional media outlets have tried to portray protests as mindless angry mobs, but direct attacks on the demands of the BSU dare not be discharged. Allegations of reverse-racism, unreasonable demands, or structural weakness of the BSU are only to be found in the realm of private conversation, student media, blogs, and Facebook groups. No professional will risk the backlash of criticizing the BSU’s efforts or demands. Demands will be seriously considered and the administration will sign a document addressing them if pressured by three weeks of protests and national news coverage.


Posted March 9, 2010 by Wada in Compton Cookout, Geisel noose, UCSD, UCSD noose, UCSD protest

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