In Defense of Disruption: Outlines of a Strategy

We’ve said again and again over the last two weeks that Humanities 2 was only the beginning. Now we can ask: The beginning of what? Where is this movement going? What’s the end game?

It may be too soon to talk about the end. That horizon still eludes us. But the next concrete step has already been planned, and if we begin with that, we can identify an important line of flight. At 12:45 this Monday, students will walk out of their classes and meet at Quarry Plaza. From there we will march on the administration (which of its tentacles will we prod this time?) and loudly deliver to them a pledge: We will do whatever is necessary to prevent these hikes.

Implicit in this pledge, and in the action itself, we see the outlines of a strategy (not just a tactic) of disruption. We are switching things up; making a ruckus; getting loud and getting unruly. But we’re doing it with a purpose.  We’re doing it because only a pattern of insubordination will force the hand of those who hope to placate us. We won’t permit the “normal” operation of this institution until the Regents and administrators back off this voracious swipe at our livelihoods. In this strategy, we follow the heroic disruptive efforts of those comrades who are in the streets nationwide to oppose racism and state violence today.

the power of disruption

Yet some friends are bound to ask, “Why so much noise and trouble? Why not show up and state our case with eloquence? If we are clear, articulate, and open to dialogue, won’t we have more credibility?”

The flaw in these questions is the assumption that our message has not been heard. In fact, administrators and Regents already know what we have to say. And they knew before we even said anything.

What student would relish the idea of paying more money and going deeper into debt to stay in school? Who wants to pick up more hours at their job only to have the wages fly from their boss’s hand straight into the coffers at Hahn, where they sit as collateral for financial products? It doesn’t take any administrative experience in higher education – which is good, since Napolitano and most Regents have none – to predict that students will be angry about a $3,000 tuition hike.

The only contingency that matters for the Regents is not whether we’re unhappy, but rather, how we show it. Our ideas and feelings are only relevant if we impose them as a necessity. The UC administration is banking (literally) on the hope that we will eloquently make our case and then leave them alone – that we will open an inconsequential dialogue and wait quietly for a response. Our plan must be the opposite: forget speaking and remember how to scream. Forget treading lightly and remember how to stomp. Walk out of class, walk into the offices of those who have chosen to be our adversaries, and make their jobs impossible.

One way or the other, we will walk out of class. Either we walk out on Monday, or we walk out defeated when the bill collectors come to our doors. Rarely is a choice so simple.

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