The University of California, Berkeley is known as the number one public university in the world and is also seen by many as one of the most liberal universities in the nation. They have been in the spotlight for the student activism and protests for anti-war movements during the Vietnam war to women’s rights movements as well. In this past week, another protest was taking place on the Berkeley' campus.
According to an article published by The Washington Times, “students at the University of California, Berkeley held a day of protest on Friday to demand the creation of additional ‘safe spaces’ for transgender and nonwhite students”. The protesters made a human chain to surround and blockade one of the main campus walkways, not letting any white students pass through the blockade and only allowing students of color to go through. The group later moved and occupied the student store on campus where the protesters placed, “an ‘eviction notice’ on the store, which claims the university ‘wrongly allocated this two-story facility to third-party corporations, keeping in line with its intensifying legacy of prioritizing financial profit over student needs’”.
The group of students involved were calling for a bigger and more visible safe space area than the one they already have, which is in the basement of a university building. Wanting for a more visible and bigger safe space in general is something that is important and should be recognized. After the incident from the dean of students from the University of Chicago with his letter to freshmen about his belief against trigger warning and safe spaces, many colleges and universities, including my own (Go Cats!), have acknowledged how they are an important part of student life and need to be supported by students and faculty.
I believe though their actions are not showing their interests in the best light. The students that were involved in this protest were students of color and students who identified as either gay or transgender; they were only allowing students to pass through if they were of a minority identity and not white. In addition to that, they were disturbing the peace of students and people on campus. This form of protest is making the protesters and call for action stand out and will cause people to pay attention, but it does more harm than good. A student interviewed by the article from The Washington Times said he thought, “the demonstrators are ‘being quite childish. I agree with the right to protest, but disrupting the peace of others is not OK’”. I agree with this student: what the demonstrators were doing was in every right okay and justified, but the exclusiveness from the protestors and acts of disturbance is something people will take in as more of an act of defiance towards the school than a call to action. Singling out students who were white and blocking them from going through an area on campus goes away from forming a more cohesive community that would support safe spaces. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged all people to participate in the Civil Rights Movements and many people from all different nationalities and ethnicities joined the cause. How can you expect people to respect your concerns when you believe not everyone can be included in your fight? Other students that are white could be wanting to support this cause, but the actions showed by the demonstrators could turn them against the cause now.
I do understand their issue and reason as to why they are protesting, but the demonstrations from a week ago are being taken in by the public in a wrong way. Hopefully they do achieve a better area for having a safe space, but I also hope they go about a better way of achieving awareness for future issues they want to bring to light by being more open and peacefully in their demonstrations and protests.