Author: Sam Byrne
An anonymous person or persons has used posters and an alias Facebook page to compare Occidental’s Residential Education (ResEd) staff to Muammar Gaddafi. Yes, an Occidental student has actually compared ResEd to the Libyan dictator who instructs his military to open fire on his own people and who personally ordered the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Those heading this attack against ResEd have failed to articulate their concerns constructively or take accountability for the accusations, and it is for these reasons that their efforts will not bring about change.
The main problem with comparing ResEd to Gaddafi is not that it is insulting or hyperbolic. The main problem is that the student responsible has failed to claim responsibility for this strong statement. “You probably don’t even know who I am, but that isn’t what’s important,” the anonymous student said on his or her Facebook page. “What is important is that you have your voice heard, and that all of the disparate groups on campus find a collective remedy to the problems they have encountered with the school.” This isn’t an “honesty box” where you can anonymously tell your friend on Facebook that you don’t like her clothes; this is an attempt to change a major system in our school.
Occidental encourages free speech and open expression, but it does so under the presupposition that students exercise a certain level of responsibility when stating their opinions. If someone boldly decides to compare one of Occidental’s student services to the man Ronald Reagan deemed the “mad dog of the Middle East,” they should prepare to support their assertions and accept criticism from the opposing view.
Unlike Gaddafi, Occidental employs a democratic system. For those who have a problem with the way our housing system is run, try attending a town hall meeting (of which ResEd held many) and voicing concerns. Hiding behind a faceless mask is an ineffective strategy for expressing dissent. Using Photoshop to place the words “ResEd = Gaddafi” across an image of the dictator’s head is amateurish. Occidental provides its students with all the educational resources to articulate their beliefs eloquently and successfully in order to make a statement, so students should not post ludicrous flyers around campus that shield them from the consequences of their actions.
This is not a matter of whether or not ResEd has faults. Most students would undoubtedly agree that waiting for an hour in the rain during Room Draw is unpleasant, that living in a forced triple as a result of the school’s limited housing is inconvenient or that the sole job of an RA is to prevent students from enjoying their residential experience through dogmatic adherence to department policies. These issues will only be resolved when they are addressed through the proper channels with constructive alternatives presented.
Senators from all four classes have agreed to compile a list of student suggestions, concerns and complaints with regards to the housing system and present it to the administration. Additionally, open meetings were held weekly leading up to room draw, allowing students to add their input and help change any problems with the system.
We have the opportunities and resources to change the system. The enemy is not the administration. If change is necessary for the benefit of the school, then of course something has to be done, but it has to be done correctly. Rather, our main obstacle is our inability to effectively communicate our ideas to the administration.
After the Gaddafi signs were posted around campus, many community members speculated about whether or not they were a joke. In response, the creator of the Facebook page wrote, “Right now, [ResEd is] probably pretty nervous. I sent them an e-mail last night letting them know that the posters weren’t a stupid prank, warning that there were already students chomping at the bit.”
Though this “warning” involved direct communication with ResEd (which is a start), ResEd is still left without an effective student proposal for improving the system. ResEd does not need posters and e-mails confirming that people are upset. They already know. What they do not know is how we want to and can make the system better. Instead of complaining, we need to articulate our problems and make them heard. We need to attend meetings, talk to our senators and speak with the staff in ResEd that welcomes our feedback.
Whoever is leading the nameless charge against ResEd should continue efforts to better the school while voicing opinions properly. Clearly, something needs to be done, so the group should reveal itself, present its concerns and help to change the system that many students are already passionate about fixing.
Sam Byrne is an undeclared first-year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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