On Jan. 28, The Daily Mississippian published an opinion column titled “Not the time, not the place to protest,” which criticized an Abolish IHL protest at Tuesday night’s Open Doors event.
The column’s author, Lauren Moses, swung by to ask Chancellor Glenn Boyce some questions and “felt uncomfortable knowing that I would be scrutinized for engaging with someone who the protestors say does not have a legitimate claim to power.” The chancellor was also disturbed and “switched from in-depth discussion to quick pleasantries,” probably because he “did not want to stir the pot by saying something out of turn.”
This campus has argued over Boyce’s legitimacy, the IHL and the statue for months. I’m not shocked when someone is supportive of any of the three. I couldn’t disagree more, but that’s not my issue with the article.
What bothers me is the absurdity. Moses wrote that “meaningful conversations, those with our new chancellor, could not occur” because of Abolish IHL’s mere presence, that she was “prevented” from asking questions, and most dramatically, that the protesters “silence[d] students from voicing their concerns about campus culture.”
The protesters literally had tape over their mouths. How did this small group “silence” or “prevent” anyone from talking? The only answer given is that “the room felt tense.”
Boyce ignored the protesters, shook hands and carried on with meeting other students. If he did self-censor, the blame doesn’t rest with Abolish IHL.
The argument that protesters should have simply attended the event and asked questions misses two key points.
First, the weeks leading up to Boyce’s appointment were marked by that approach. Students, faculty, community members and alumni alike tried to ask questions at the listening sessions. From the jump, the board’s vice president made clear that he and his colleagues were there to “listen,” not to discuss the search. Meanwhile, they misled everyone. That’s not an opinion. We were all under the impression that interviews with candidates mattered. They did not.
Second, if Boyce won’t discuss the way he was hired with reporters from The Daily Mississippian, what are the chances he’ll do so with protesters?
“Not the time, not the place to protest” is a spiritual successor to another opinion piece Moses wrote, “Campus culture and ‘1984’ aren’t so different,” in which she likened college hate speech codes to the tyranny in George Orwell’s fictional dystopia. How she takes this stance but says a protest is unfair because it makes someone “uncomfortable” is beyond me.
Protests are for injustices that can’t be solved with words alone. Sometimes they’re needlessly inconvenient or dangerous; value judgments have to be made. Tuesday’s demonstration was exceptionally mild. If it was too upsetting, I wonder what protest isn’t.
Ryan Oehrli is a senior political science major from Laurel.