Seminar targets importance of activism in universities

By: Melhor Leonor/Contributing Writer

Whether peaceful or violent, civic displays of objection surfaced globally in the past year as protesters brought their causes to the public eye. Local displays such as Occupy FIU are bringing a national sense of protest to FIU’s campus.

On Thursday, Jan. 12, as part of the Week of Welcome activities, the Department of Campus Life held the Student Activism seminar, where a panel of University staff and students discussed the power and purpose of protesting under the slogan “What Are You Fighting For?”

The program began with an introduction from each of the panel members. Dawn Addy, director of the center for labor research and studies began by providing a historical perspective on student activism, also adding on her personal experience with activism.

Director for the center for service and leadership and panel member, Beverly Dalrymple, emphasized on the importance of activism and on the avenues through which students can have their voices heard.

“There are many ways in which you can work on policy change. Petitioning, lobbying, volunteering, boycotting, buycotting and social entrepreneurship,” Dalrymple said. “We would like to offer our department as a resource for that. We focus on civic engagement and creating active citizens.”

The third member of the panel was Alexander Casas, chief of police at the FIU Police Department, who emphasized the importance of protesting and being socially active while also complying with university policy.

“Balancing every interest is the agreement we abide by,” Casas said. “ We encourage students to exercise their right of free speech but we have to control the time, place and manner in order to maintain general university functions running.”

The floor was then open for an open forum discussion, where panel members and students engaged in discussion.

Senior Sean McMahon, majoring in international relations and political science aimed his question at the panel, alluding to the episode in University of California, Davis, where a video of law enforcement officers spraying sitting students with pepper spray gained much attention on the web.

“Sometimes these episodes can be avoided. Often times it depends on how police and protesters respond to each other’s presence,” Addy said. “As long as everyone is being treated in a respectful manner, there will be favorable response.”

Adding to the topic of public protests on campus, junior and psychology major Phoebe Clemons emphasized on the importance of leadership.

“I think that with any presence, it’s important for there to be leadership in a mature and conscious way. It is the role of the leaders of the protest to protect those they are protesting along with as well as everyone that they are coming in contact with,” Clemons said.

The discussion concluded with a highlight on the many ways students can have their voices heard as well as with a word on the importance of involvement.

“There are so many ways to approach a problem, avenues that are already built into the system. However, there is also a time for protests. Protests are usually that last measure for when no one is listening,” Addy said.

“One of the major things with any movement is being there, to show up and to participate so that your voice can be heard.”

1 Comment on "Seminar targets importance of activism in universities"

  1. “Balancing every interest is the agreement we abide by,” Casas said. “ We encourage students to exercise their right of free speech but we have to control the time, place and manner in order to maintain general university functions running.” control when and where i am does not amke me feel free

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