Why didn’t the Daily hire me? Or how I learned to hate the apathy of college life

We sit in rooms, rubbing shoulders with prosaic minds and apathetic professors. We bathe in regurgitation.

On April 16, 18 freethinking individuals met for coffee to discuss the possible closing of General College and its implications on Minnesota’s diverse and less-fortunate young people. While not opposed to change, we knew in the core of our hearts the administration’s “strategic plan” was thorny at best.

We dubbed ourselves the General College Truth Movement, autonomous from General College, and embrace students, staff members, faculty members and other community friends. Evidently, we caused a “ruckus” regarding the University’s strategic plan, though we have remained nonviolent.

We’ve organized two protests, a Mall encampment, and a sit-in demonstration – nine people were arrested and the University Police Department maced two peaceful protestors pointblank in the eyes, twice. We have raised awareness to tens of thousands of Minnesotans and have received endorsements from more than 35 organizations and unions.

Campus life is decaying, particularly concerning social justice issues. Yes, we have “Gophers pride” and not everyone is too indolent to make change; though, many have lost faith in their own voice. General College participation was left out of the “strategic plan,” campus climate is suffering, thousands were ignored, and we have lost confidence in an administration assembled for the students and state. The General College Truth Movement had one choice: compel this administration to become witness to our voice and those without a voice. The “truth” element of “General College Truth Movement” is enormously significant.

You’ve heard the arguments about access, affirmative action and equal opportunity, so let me enlighten you with a novel approach.

Since the civil rights movement began, we have fought relentlessly to change the repressive rules and laws that subjugate citizens, particularly minorities. What we have failed to do, primarily those with unearned privilege, is change ourselves. The truth is that all forms of oppression are as much of an ailment today as they were decades ago – they’ve merely transformed.

The truth is that the regents have, without doubt, approved a racist, classist and elitist proposal, one by-and-for the elite, formulated without the voice of those the plan affects most. We ask, “If what the administration is doing is so good for Minnesotans, then why are they fighting, particularly those with less privilege?”

There’s a pathology of whiteness, economic discrimination and fear in the United States; a sickness so severe it is killing everyone. Without making whiteness real, and economic discrimination visible, all attempts at combating these forms of oppression are futile. The administration doesn’t like us calling its plan racist and classist. Why would they? If it was forced to genuinely examine itself and its plan, it would have to face immense pain and rethink its proposal’s design.

Because I am a middle-class white man born in the United States, I systematically benefit from unearned privileges and involuntary prejudices live within me. Therefore, it is my duty and the duty of those like me, to seek the painful truth and eradicate the problem. If those with unearned privileges do not take a long painful look in the mirror as I have, we will, as a nation, breathe our last breath.

Though bound in a system, University administrators must tunnel inward and speak on these issues unaided, rather than send their bemused hand-puppets to speak at the communities affected by their actions. There, they will find that they are a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. We realized this truth and fought for what we believe in.

A nationwide oppressive trend continues. Check out what has happened at Wayne State, Temple University, the University of Cincinnati or perhaps California’s Proposition 209. The pendulum is swinging in a direction that beckons individualism, elitism and competition, contradictory to the “common good.” Those with power need not exert much more pressure, because we are now harming each other and ourselves.

Our job now is to hold this administration responsible for its empty promises. One of the most malicious ways to oppress people is to lower their aspirations, which is why our administration has killed “the dream” known as General College, a place of hope!

The General College Truth Movement stands resolute and our work is not done!

Nathan Whittaker is a member of the General College Truth Movement. Please send comments to [email protected]