We are told that the university is a safe space — that it protects the most marginalized on campus. We are told that the university looks out for the interests of students, prioritizing the needs of minorities and oppressed identities. Does the university prioritize the oppressed?
Rather than standing with the oppressed, this university prioritizes the interests of corporate executives. The main governing body for this school — the Board of Trustees — allows for Insurance company businessman from corporations like Cigna and Travelers to have far more power than students, who hold next to no power. Our current board of Trustees even includes David Lehman who has a history at Goldman Sachs and played a role in the 2008 financial collapse.
The university prioritizes the interests of the police and criminal justice system in this country. This school literally uses prison labor to reupholster furniture at this school. UConn police have told survivors of sexual assault that “Women need to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter or rape is going to keep happening until the cows come home.”
The university prioritizes the interests of the weapons manufacturers. The production of knowledge at this school is oriented towards vestiges of the military industrial complex like Electric Boat and Raytheon. This school spends huge sums of money to host Lockheed Martin day, where makers of weapons of war and destruction are allowed to parade themselves in front of students. While it is possible that this university could be a leader in pioneering green engineering jobs, this school has not moved one inch away from maintaining a war economy based around the U.S. military (the largest single emitter of CO2) that our engineering graduates are forced to be a part of whether they like it or not.
The university prioritizes the Department of Homeland Security, which has traumatized countless communities of color and which deports and detains hundreds of thousands of undocumented people in this country every year. The Department of Homeland Security has a certificate of excellence on the Information and Technologies and Engineering building on campus.
The university prioritizes the interests of the rotten capitalist politicians. The university has hosted Chris Murphy who recently gave support to the U.S.-backed coup in Bolivia, which is currently depriving indigenous people of their rights in the most violent manner. In 2016, the university hosted Henry Kissinger, who was a key political figure in the continuation of the US wars in South-East Asia and the US-organized overthrow of the government of Chile in 1973. The University continues to give out an award for human rights named after Thomas J. Dodd (the man whom the Dodd Center is named after), a man who directly supported the murder of indigenous people in Guatemala and personally forwarded efforts to have Martin Luther King Jr. arrested. The recipients of this award include Bill Clinton, a man responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Sudanese, and Tony Blair, a man who played a major part in the catastrophic war in Iraq that killed over 700,000 Iraqis.
We should not partner with the administration in our activist efforts. It has already demonstrated that it is not our friend. Within the past two years it has hosted right wing anti-abortion groups on campus, mishandled issues with non-binary students through ResLife, tried to force the cancellation of an event featuring Palestinian-Feminist Linda Sarsour and spent huge sums of money hiring law firms from New Jersey to bust unionization efforts from graduate workers.
The interests of the university are more often than not on the side of our enemy: The ruling class. However, work within the university bodies must not be ruled out as a tactic, especially given that we are in the earliest of stages in the progression toward independent organizing on campus. Nonetheless, this should be our goal: Independent power.
In the wake of recent campus activism, it is important to reflect on strategy and tactics regarding how to maneuver about the top offices of the school. To focus efforts on collaborating with the UConn administration would be disastrous. Attention must be placed on building popular movements that involve as many students, workers and faculty in this school as possible. The recent March of Solidarity is a good step forward in this regard.
We ought to organize ourselves so that when we, the students, submit climate justice demands, the university is forced to respond to student power. We ought to organize ourselves so that when racism happens on campus, it is not that the issue is swept under the rug by the administration or some external group, but rather that the racists and the university administration are forced to respond to all of us.
The university will always protect its interests; we must fight for our interests.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.
Ruwan Munasinghe is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.