Have campus officials intimidated activists?

We have held peaceful protests to spark public debate and questioned the University administration.

In my attempt to stay incognito during the GC5 trial, I could no longer snub reporters from The Minnesota Daily, and I am morally obligated to voice a major issue on campus. Some have dubbed me the “founder” of the General College Truth Movement, although I strongly insist that our movement was erected by countless souls, many of whom are more dedicated than me. Therefore, I am not writing on behalf of the General College Truth Movement, but as a University community member for the past 10 years.

The big questions: Have campus officials intimidated activists on campus, struggling for equal opportunity and access? Was the strategic positioning process undemocratic? A recent writer to the Daily got one thing right: The University has never been “democratic.” The proof manifests in student vernacular across campus.

First, due to meritocracy, students continue to scorn being “a number,” and few faculty members value teaching above being published (most students know the difference).

Second, we all know the bogus hierarchical lineage of colleges, with the General College at the bottom.

Finally, when Administration sets an agenda like the Strategic Plan, few students are invited to the table while Strategic Positioning Task Force members are solicited to do one thing: Accomplish the Administration’s goal. Though task forces are believed to have decision-making clout, the Administration’s final objective, which thousands reject, will not change.

Many took a stand. We regret that the opposition was so malicious and that fear and intimidation was the main ingredient in the Administration’s Strategic Positioning. In a peaceful process of building awareness, people were incarcerated, pepper-sprayed, kicked and surveilled by University police at all events. Personal e-mail was read.

Listservs were under watch, and the regurgitation of outdated policies regarding voicing ourselves were utilized. Union members have been put in a vulnerable position. The GC5 was threatened with outrageous penalties. Many faculty members are questioning the arrogant process. Employee exodus is campuswide, starting with the only black and Senior Dean of the University, David Taylor. This critique puts me at risk, even when my declaration is not as biased as one may think.

The GCTM has been called a bunch of “angry ‘U’ students.” Yet state legislators, faculty, staff, graduates and undergraduates, union members, community organizations, alumni and the National Lawyers Guild (a civil rights association) shaped this movement. Don’t be “angry” we are told.

It’s my opinion that having the privilege not to be “angry” is an ailment. Those affected by the administration’s “strategic plan,” those with less privilege are angry. People have been wounded pointlessly and no grievance process has been introduced.

How have we channeled that anger? We’ve raised awareness for tens of thousands. We’ve held peaceful protests to spark public debate. We’ve held teach-ins, developed relationships and modified our goals knowing the General College is not coming back.

Are these not the things we’re encouraged to do at an institution of deliberation and discovery? The “angry student” label is ignorant and based on fear. It exists because the GC5 went to trial for the common good.

This is not an attack on one individual. This is about a culture of fear and intimidation on our campus thanks to the Strategic Positioning initiative. The examples of intimidation I gave are real and happening to actual people. Fear made this bullying ostensibly okay and fear is why others are afraid to speak up. If there was ever a time for public discourse, that time is now!

A vital public dialogue will be at 5:00 p.m. Friday in 150 Blegen Hall. All are welcome!

Nathan Whittaker is a University staff member. Please send comments to [email protected]