By Emily Guzman
“This stuff is real, and we have to start saying something,” said Professor Amy Lane of the Anthropology and Sociology department at the teach-in on Tuesday morning, referring to Governor Snyder’s proposed budget cuts in Michigan. Shortly after, Professor Laura Barraclough asked any and all students to approach the microphone and share their thoughts on the subject.
There has been lots of talk, and lots of action, surrounding Governor Snyder’s cuts to higher education and public schools in the past few weeks. The day after the teach-in, fifty Kalamazoo College students boarded a bus to the capital to rally against the proposed state budget. To say that the students and faculty of K have a lot to say about the future of education in Michigan is an understatement.
With the Day of Silence approaching, a day for people across the country to pledge silence in support of LGBT rights, a comparison of the effectiveness of silent protest and verbal demonstration seems inevitable—especially at the end of a chaotic week.
Silent protests drink in much criticism for lacking transparency, and any uncertainty can be detrimental to a cause if people don’t do their research when they get home. They are considered to be less proactive and even more troubling; for some, silence translates to less passion for and frustration over a pressing issue because it can signify less of a desire to provoke a fervent reaction from others.
Advocates of silent protest will say that confusion is a good thing because it forces people to ask questions and urges them to find answers. Of course, that is assuming there is a large enough group of silent protesters that the silence is noticeable and will spark discussion. We benefit from the intimacy of our small campus because we see the same people everyday, multiples times a day. So we notice when our friends are not speaking up in class, when we pass them everyday in Hicks, or in passing in the cafeteria. And our public university friends like those over at Western Michigan University may tell us that the Day of Silence is more effective on a smaller scale, unless there’s support from college organizations.
And silent protesters may ask, does an advocate for a cause need to sound angry for others to believe they’re passionate about their cause? They’ll say that remaining silent for an entire day, especially when they see the injustice they face on a daily basis, is a sign of dedication and commitment.
But there was definitely something motivational in hearing the words of students and professors at the teach-in on Tuesday, speaking amongst each other as equals in support of the same cause and with similar ideals. As someone who lives on a college campus with intelligent individuals and who believes there is value in what my peers can teach me outside the classroom, I was moved by the rhetoric of the issue at hand.
Professor Barraclough concluded the teach-in with these words: “As young people, we need to start building an alternative vision.” Can we do that by remaining silent?