The activist group commonly referred to as
BAMN has developed quite a reputation for itself on campus.
Despised by the Right and ostracized by the mainstream Left, BAMN
is clearly a group that has alienated itself from the majority of
the student body.
Its platform isn’t the problem. In fact, many students, as
well as most University administrators, support its key positions
on affirmative action and race-based admissions policies. The
problem is its tactics. Its members are loud, obnoxious and clearly
aren’t interested in dialogue. Often, individuals with a
different point of view are just shouted down, or worse, called
racist. Simply put, BAMN is just offensive.
Groups like BAMN illustrate clearly the consequences of
advocating for the right issues, in entirely the wrong way. The
issues lose an otherwise important voice, and people ignore an
otherwise important point of view.
When I heard that there was a new student group on campus,
Student Voices in Action, I was excited. In response to the
proposed cuts to several key student services, SVA coordinated
large student protests on the Diag and outside the Fleming
Administration Building. Shockingly, they had a coherent message.
They oppose the changes to the Sexual Assault Prevention and
Awareness Center. They oppose funding cuts to the Office of
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs. They want Trotter
House to finally get the funding to renovate. They demand increased
student representation at the administrative level. Check, check
and check. To top it off, they have a great slogan: “Royster
cut student services and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” I
was so excited, my little liberal heart started going
Then they broke it in two.
After meeting with several of their organizers, I realized that
some of their other assertions range from the highly debatable to
the completely outrageous. They claim the University isn’t
committed to diversity, despite a multi-year, multi-million dollar
defense of its race-conscious admission policies. They want the
University to give students more than a say in the administrative
process, with veto power, yes, veto power, over decisions regarding
Then, they took this questionable wish list and went on the
offensive — and did it as offensively as possible. They
demanded a meeting with University President Mary Sue Coleman at
the Trotter House, at you guessed it, 12 o’clock — high
noon. Coleman came as requested to meet with the activists.
Apparently, the conversation went something like this:
SVA: We demand these things.
Coleman: Well, that’s a complica …
SVA: We demand yes or no answers.
Coleman: I wish you’d let me answ …
SVA: Yes or no.
Funny, not a damn thing came out of the meeting.
SVA member Clair Morrissey had this to say regarding the event:
“It’s important to engage in the kind of dialogue we
did today. I would have hoped the administrators were more open to
Listening? They interrupted and shouted their demands over the
president of a major university who had amicably agreed to meet
with their group. Dialogue? If that is SVA’s definition of
dialogue, they’re in worse trouble than I thought.
It’s true that the University has been stalling on these
issues for years. It is understandable that many in SVA are
frustrated that it’s taken so long to get heard by the
University. But that only makes the events that occurred on Monday
all the more tragic — that provided with the long-awaited
opportunity to discuss and advocate for their issues, they instead
chose the tactics of desperate and frustrated men and women.
That’s just not how you get things done — that’s
how you get marginalized and ignored. It sounds to me as if SVA,
like so many other contemporary student movements, just
doesn’t have the patience to barter with the administration.
Now Fleming, justifiably offended by their tactics, probably
won’t listen to them. Summer will come. SVA will probably
die, and along with them, any momentum that could have been carried
into the fall.
The student body will get screwed.
And all we’ll have to show for it will be the lousy