Phillipian Commentary: Letter to the Editor

Dear Editors of The Phillipian,

Greetings. On Monday, a myriad of chalk writings appeared on pathways all across campus. Their content called for protecting indigenous people’s rights and boycotting “Columbus Day.” Disclaimer: I do not intend to criticize this demonstration, yet it shows that similar spontaneous student demonstrations have happened and will continue to happen in the rest of the school year. Therefore, I’d like to point out the issue that there is a need to regulate spontaneous student demonstrations professionally. 

Before I put forth my claim, I’d like to first recognize the fact that there are two kinds of student demonstrations on campus: school-led and spontaneous. The school-led ones, such as “Take Back The Night,” are prepared by the school and associated student groups. The events are recorded by the administration, sponsored by faculty members, and forecasted in public sources such as The Phillipian and “The Weekender.” On the other hand, spontaneous student protests are seldom organized in a public, open way. Clubs or individuals assume the sole responsibility of conducting the protests without any intervention from the school. This unregulated freedom of expression could mean a more vibrant, active student body—yet it may create distrust and weaken the student-administration relationship. Therefore, to seek a balance between the two, it is necessary to establish the rules of spontaneous student demonstrations.

Past student demonstrations have shown the need for verbal regulations on the issue. Returning students may recall the “Bras 4 A Cause” protest last term, sparked by the removal of two female students from a dance. The spontaneous protest intended to call for attention on gender inequality issues on campus. However, the protest organizers radically chose to call students to wear their bras as their only upper body garment as their way of demonstration. Their decision was not forbidden by any rules in the Blue Book, for no rules in the Blue Book were devoted to the means, organizations or times of spontaneous student protests. As a result, the school had to call a faculty meeting the day before the planned protest, outlining the do’s and don’ts. Fortunately, the student organizers receded from their radical approaches and asked students to wear their bras outside their clothing instead. It was lamentable that the demonstration had to end in such divisive conflict between parts of the student body and the administration, and the way to avoid similar crises is to outline the acceptable ways of spontaneous student protesting.

Some would argue in favor of students’ freedom of expression. However, this is a false equivocation: regulating spontaneous student demonstrations does not mean threatening the freedom of expression. The regulations would primarily outline the acceptable means of demonstrations. For instance, should chalk-writing be allowed on campus, and where should it be allowed? One may object to this way of demonstration because of its anonymity — students may maliciously leave offensive content without bearing any consequences. Besides, the regulations shall establish communications between the administration and the student organizers, so the two parties may understand each other’s needs and opinions better. With clearer communications between the school and the students, the school may even help the students in deciding their time, place and ways of protest. Moreover, the regulations, which are general guidelines of spontaneous demonstrations, would not dissuade students from expressing their opinion. What the regulations would never interfere with are the contents of the demonstrations — they should follow the other parts of the Blue Book. 

To conclude, it is necessary to regulate the spontaneous student demonstrations on campus, and we, the students, should work together to strengthen the unity between the student body and the administration. With such proposed regulations, students may express their opinions in a safer and more supported way. 


Jason Huang