Activism comes in many forms, especially on college campuses. Today at noon, the “Rally for a Peaceful Planet” will take place on the Student Union lawn. It has been in the works for weeks, and boasts a long list of speakers along with a clear set of demands. While the Editorial Board applauds the effort of the organizers who put this event together, we have a few concerns that we’d like to point out.
For starters, the third goal of the rally is to get the University of Connecticut to declare racism a public health crisis. This is an incredibly admirable goal as racism is a public health crisis, and should be declared so in as many spaces as possible, but the fact is that this has already practically been achieved. When the state of Connecticut made the declaration a few weeks ago, Interim UConn President Dr. Andy Agwunobi said in a Sept. 22 UConn Today post: “We at UConn applaud and agree with the state’s declaration of racism as a public health crisis in Public Act 21-35. We are glad that our Undergraduate Student Government asked that we follow the state in declaring racism a public health crisis and we are happy to do so.” Agwunobi is scheduled to speak today at the rally, and no doubt he’ll reiterate this message, but the redundancy seems a little bit performative.
In fact, the presence of two administrators on the speakers list also creates some room for confusion. It begs the question, what is the need for a rally if we’re dealing with an administration that is not only willing to cooperate, but played an active role in the planning of said event?
This is the same UConn administration (obviously with a few changes, but still relatively the same) that blocked efforts to defund the UConn Police Department last year and presides over an on-campus fossil fuel plant, just to name two grievances students have raised recently.
On the subject of the police, could the fact that this rally is asking to end the 1033 program, a federally run system that gives military equipment to UCPD and various other police forces, rather than asking to defund from UCPD’s multi-million dollar budget be a sign of compromise in order to get administrators on board?
The question remains: Why do these concerns matter to the individual UConn student that just wants to show up for a good cause? It’s simple — supporting this rally is not a bad thing, it just might not have the implications one might think it has. What matters is what a person does after they leave. If you go to this rally, consider yourself a rebel for going to a protest that’s been sanctioned by the university and feel like you’ve solved all of the world’s problems, then you went for purely performative reasons. If you leave the rally with a desire to find out how you can best help causes that are in need of helping, then your attendance will have been productive.
Let’s all come away from this event as the latter person, ready to be active members of society, pushing for change in all the ways we can. The motto of the rally is true in saying, “Change starts with us.” But please remember that the rally is only that, a start. We must continue with our activism knowing full well we probably won’t see the end.