Doc Carney

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How to Protest Without Making Things Worse

December 5th, 2011 at 16:32

Protest signThere are many people, at Southern Oregon University and elsewhere, who would say that I’m about the  last person to consult on how to successfully interact with other people.  Some  days it seems as though I’ve been issued a punch card with only so many spaces to be punched each time I annoy or offend someone.  I’ve used up all my punches on many an occasion.

Nevertheless, SOU is, after all, a place of learning and I’ve learned a few things over the years on how to get my point across without pissing people off.

Here’s a few of those things.

1. Assume the person or persons with whom you vexed have the best of intentions in spite of your disapproval of his, her, or their actions.

2. Assume whomever you disagree with has carefully considered other options and has tried hard to make the best decision.

3. Make sure you know what you are talking about when you address the issues at hand, and that the supposed problem you wish to protest might not exist anymore, or has in some other way been addressed.

4. Do not do anything to deliberately piss people off.  It may feel good at the time, and there are some spectacular examples of how direct civil disobedience has worked in the past.  In reality, however, such cases are rare.  If you keep assumptions #1 and #2 in mind, you will find that a simple letter, or a respectfully-phrased petition, will do more good than picket signs and bullhorns.

5. Carefully consider that those in positions of power might suspect that student protesters where organized and egged-on by a department or by a specific member of the faculty.  Such suspicions can serve no useful purpose. It can, however, create a corrosive relationship between faculty members, academic departments, and the upper administration.

6. Keep in mind something the (Liberal) novelist Wallace Stegner once wrote: “Radicals are people who take a bad situation and make it worse.”

Well, with some of you, I may have just used up today’s punch card.  So be it.  I won’t be the first time.

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