How To Deal With Campus Protestors
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Student Life

How To Deal With Campus Protestors

Stop gawking and keep walking.

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How To Deal With Campus Protestors
Julie Green

Your opinion isn't as important as you think it is. While it's great that you have your own opinions and that you take the time to develop them (You should!), very few others need to know about it. That's why we have the common phrase, "Nobody asked for your opinion"—because most of the time, no one did. So if you see someone contesting what you believe, getting up there and trying to argue with them about why they're wrong probably won't change much (With few exceptions—like if that opinion is actively harming someone, intervention might be needed). You shouldn't try to force your opinions on others the same way others shouldn't force their opinions on you.

When you combine freedom of speech with a large public university, any open space becomes an easy location for some kind of demonstration to set up shop. All of the ingredients for drawing a crowd to see your message are on-hand: a mass of people with diverse and divisive views, students willing to (loudly) vocalize their own opinions, and explicit university rules on what demonstrators and their audiences are/are not permitted to do.

It's practically impossible to go through four years of college without seeing or participating in a demonstration. A February UCLA survey found that 8.5 percent of students said there was a "very good chance" they would participate in a protest while enrolled—a 2.9 percent hike above the 2014 survey results and the highest in the study's history.

But not everyone holds the same opinions. When someone confronts you with their beliefs, and those beliefs just seem illogical, irrational and downright stupid, it can really grind your gears. The best response isn't to grab a louder megaphone. It isn't to get in a standing argument with whoever is trying to convince you that everyone on earth is going to hell. It isn't to mill around gawking, take videos for your Snapchat story, or even set up a counter-protest nearby.

The best response is to ignore it and walk away.

Without an active audience, demonstrators are more likely to pack up and leave. The whole point of them being there is to spread their message. By standing there, you are helping them achieve that goal. When they see a camera or a phone, they more gleefully assume that their mantra is going viral. If someone is passionate enough to stand hours in the blazing heat or freezing cold for what they believe, you are not going to be able to convince them what they are preaching is false. You could present the most logical, fact-based argument in the world, and chances are it will not change a protester's mind.

As one blogger puts it, "Often the professional protesters are out for their own fame and fortune...the politicians are out to save their hides. The developers are out to make money. If you get involved, you may be little more than a pawn in someone else's game. Being "outraged" is what they want you to do. But in the end analysis, it is often just a waste of your precious emotional energy."

Granted, there are amazing responses that do not involve giving any demonstrator the time of day. In July 2012, hundreds of Texas A&M students gathered to form a human wall around funeral services for alum Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale.

Ryan Slezia, a former Texas A&M student, heard chatter of Westboro Baptist Church's plans to picket the funeral, and devised the plan to derail them:

"It is proposed that we respond with true Aggie spirit.
In response to their yelling, we will be silent. Like silver taps, like Bonfire Memorial.
In response to their signs of hate, we will wear maroon.
In response to their mob anger, we will form a line, arm in arm.
This is a silent vigil. A manifestation of our solidarity."

Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are important rights guaranteed to all American citizens. While we may not agree with what everyone has to say, the best way to disagree with protesters isn't always to establish a counter-protest. The best way to show them they are wrong is demonstrated by the way you live your life. You don't think gays and lesbians are going to hell? Making a sign isn't going to change much. Being supportive of your friend who is struggling with his/her sexuality? That's what makes a difference. No poster board or megaphone needed.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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