While last Tuesday’s “May Day General Strike” succumbed to the forces of Mother Nature, student activists weren’t so easily defeated. Commandeering Gaige Hall 211, the May Day coalition led an hour-and-a-half guerilla teach-in for a last-minute crowd of 17 participants.
The group compromised on a last-ditch teach-in just before noon, and quickly promoted the 12:30 p.m. event with numerous on-campus fliers, encouraging any and all interested parties to join.
A group of five student protesters marched their way across a rainy Quad, flying homemade flags (each representing an ideal of awareness) while leading an echoed call-and-answer: “Power! Power! Talkin’ ’bout student power!”
The procession made its way to Gaige, all the while answering the call.
Once the group occupied the room, an in-depth dialogue commenced. The topics included RIC’s alleged misrepresentation of the student body, lack of tolerance on campus, administration oversight of Student Community Government, Inc., administrative meddling and the abolishment of business as usual at RIC.
Student speaker and RIC Senior Kevin C. was adamant about the administration’s grasp on student affairs, especially in the realm of SCG.
“[SCG] is created and organized in a specific manner in which the final say passes through administrators,” he claimed. He said he advocated abolishing SCG’s current structure because it is something that is intrinsically tied to maintaining a status quo on campus.
“Administration, in a sense, is the umbrella that covers this campus and wants to control what happens here,” he said.
RIC Freshman Servio Gomez called out the college administration.
“It’s a matter of pointing the finger at those who call the shots,” Gomez said. “They’re overworking the students. The system is overworking the students. Administration oppresses the people who pay their salaries.”
However, administrative woes weren’t the whole of the issue. Alleged misrepresentation of the student body ran heavily in the discussion.
“Seventy percent of this campus is made up of a female-identifying student body,” said Jacki Carlson, a gender studies major. “Yet Parliament is not 70 percent diverse.”
Carlson continued the dialogue on representation, “SCG claims that they are the student body. You cannot represent the student body if it’s not a representative body. Go figure.”
Also in attendance was Parliament Rep. George Selwyn, who, when asked, mentioned the fact that there are ample opportunities for students to join SCG. “Right now we have close to 30 Parliament members,” he said, which means there are about 20 vacant seats open for students to join if they wished.
Gomez questioned how 30 students can attempt to accurately represent RIC’s 9,000-plus students.
Selwyn was quick to validate Gomez’ point of improper representation.
“I was the Parliament representative for New Hall,” he said. “I’ve never lived in New Hall.”
When the topic turned to tolerance, Carlson made sure to mention the college’s leniency with WXIN’s “notorious way of promoting events.” She cited last Thursday’s “Nautical or Nice” Ruffstone Tavern party, among others, which sometimes depicts scantily clad women in their advertising. Carlson regarded the events as sexist and unconscionable. While they protesters feel that administration was oppressing students, they nonetheless called out college administration for not censoring WXIN.
“If we are an institution of continuing education, why are we educating people the wrong way?” said Carlson.
Another senior, Katherine Wilson, touched on tolerance, as well as alleged administrative meddling. She said that in a private meeting with members of SCG, Wilson was allegedly told that particular administration officials sent people to remove May Day fliers because they were not authorized, nor were they posted in authorized areas of the campus. The reason given was that of a potential fire hazard.
Wilson, who also works at the Women’s Center on campus, mentioned that if someone comes to the Women’s Center to report a sexual assault on campus, the procedure is to tell an administrator and not Campus Police.
“[A report is] never filed. So when you look at crime on campus, you don’t see hate crimes, sexual assaults or assaults in general,” said Wilson.
She advocated that the administration should encourage a climate that doesn’t “tolerate intolerance.”
In addition to the alleged meddling, Wilson claimed the RIC administration to be misogynistic in its practices, despite the appointment of two-term President Nancy Carriuolo.
“Often when we see a woman in power, we don’t question how she got there,” Wilson said. “She’s only gonna represent that which is important: a patriarchal system. If she was a radical feminist, she would not be president of Rhode Island College.”
Present for a portion of the teach-in was Unity Center Director Antoinette Gomes, who “attended to listen to students’ concerns.” Gomes did, however, enter the conversation, positing the notion that the college’s system for assessing diversity and student needs on campus is outdated and insufficient.
In meeting with student organizers after the teach-in, they made their respective messages clear. Kevin Dwyre, an anthropology and political science double-major, commented on SCG and business as usual.
“SCG complains about student apathy yet does little to help create a culture of participation on campus, while the administration is hostile to students who wish to promote a dialogue outside of the traditional format,” said Dwyre.
Gomez took the straightforward approach in offering advice to what he said are overpaid administrators: “Take a pay cut.”
While the goals of the coalition were varied, Kevin C. tried to sum them up rather succinctly.
“I’d love to have a social revolution on this campus,” he said.
Kevin said his desire is to see the college reflect the type of society students want to create. As for the administration, “It’s time administration takes a cut. It’s time that austerity doesn’t simply exist in the realm of the working-class students, but that austerity, instead, hits the top where true spending is habit.”
May Day is recognized in numerous countries as International Workers Day. The international holiday spawned from the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago, which saw dozens of demonstrators killed during a general strike for the eight-hour work day. In 1894 in Cleveland, Ohio, a high rate of unemployment led to what is now known as the May Day riots. In the U.S., however, the official workers holiday is observed as Labor Day on the first Monday in September; May 1 observes Law Day.