Why Kaler protests are counterproductive

Daily Editorial Board

On Friday, 30 demonstrators from Students for a Democratic Society — a student organization on campus — disrupted a Board of Regents meeting. Their grievances reflected important issues on campus. On their list were qualms over recent tuition hikes, what they say is Kaler’s failure to deem the University a “sanctuary campus,” the president’s decision not to condemn or ban the “Build A Wall” panel on the Washington Avenue bridge, and other perceived failures of Kaler’s administration.

The demonstrators brought legitimate issues to light. Indeed, the tuition hike earlier this year was substantial — though the University administration argued it wouldn’t really impact students because of the increased availability of financial aid. Further, many reports have confirmed the increase in animosity and hate crimes toward Muslim Americans and immigrants, locally and nationally.

It’s important not to forget that the University did vow to support undocumented students and ensured that the school will foster an atmosphere where all students — regardless of their documented status — will be able to learn and pursue their academic goals. Other concerns regarding the sexual harassment case against former Athletic Director Norwood Teague and the Psychiatry department’s ethical violations were also part of their grievances.

However, the legitimate concerns of demonstrators were largely nullified by their demand to “Fire Kaler.” Protests help spotlight issues, and they help bring publicity to issues that would otherwise go under the table. Yet, none of these issues were new — discussions about them have gone on for months. In addition, legitimate action has been taken.

In the case of the “sanctuary campus,” the administration issued a profound statement and affirmation of the values of equal education access for all students. Regarding the ethical violations of the Psychiatry department, state legislative auditors looked into the Dan Markingson case, and in 2013, Kaler finally agreed to an outside review of the University’s research practices after increased pressure on his administration. While Kaler said he didn’t agree with the findings of the audit or the external review, both released in 2015, a University panel has attempted proactive measures with regard to clinical research practices by recommending increased training and oversight. Lastly, the burden of the tuition hike on in-state students was also attenuated by increased access to financial aid.

While there is no denying that there are many issues which Kaler has met with inaction, which is infuriating — an argument for his removal as President is not a particularly valid one. The job of the President is an important one — Kaler must juggle heading the administration and appealing to students and lawmakers.

Instead of asking to fire him, we think students should work on drafting tangible reforms to issues they find concerning. For example, they could work with Board of Regents student representatives to ensure their voices are heard, which could prove more productive. It’s no longer enough to keep complaining. If students want change, they must work to make that change a reality.

Correction: A previous version of this editorial mischaracterized the investigation of the Dan Markingson case and the University’s clinical research practices.