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Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Article Addresses Apathy at Berkeley
KTLA5 recently carried a comprehensive, interesting article about the lack of political activism here at Berkeley, especially in relation to the Free Speech Movement, much in the news of late.
The article, "Free to Be Silent at UC Berkeley " blames the lack of interest in social and political causes on a number of factors, including, "increasingly selective admissions standards, higher costs, onerous academic workloads and a largely apolitical Asian student population are some of the reasons behind the change in campus politics."
This lack of protesting on campus is not a bad thing according to Philosophy Professor, John Searle:
My own reflections on this subject, agree in part with the article.
1) There is less agitation on campus because there is less to be agitated about. The Free Speech Movement/Civil Rights Movement/Vietnam War Protests all represented polarizing issues of such extreme importance, they nearly compelled people to take to the streets to make their voices heard. In comparison, the major issue of today, the Iraq War, not only seems to evoke ambivalent feelings, but because it is being fought by a small sized, volunteer force, that struggle is effectively compartmentalized from the lives of Berkeley students. If a draft were reinstated, I can guarantee you that college campuses would have immediate outpourings of protest against such an action.
2) The author's point about the "largely apolitical Asian student population" also rings true in my own experience. I would guess that the two main political groups on campus, the Cal Dems and Berkeley College Republicans are both disproportionately lacking in Asian American students. (For completely unscientific proof of this, look up the Berkeley College Republicans and Cal Berkeley Democrats on facebook and scroll through the membership looking for Asians.)
This apolitical nature to Asian American students represents in some sense the different approach that the Asian Americanss at Berkeley have taken to building communities and working for change. Glance at the names of the groups tabling on Sproul, and it's clear that Asian American students aren't apathetic. Asian American student groups just work for change using different methods than high profile protests or large scale social movements. The apparent lack of invovlement of Asian American students in overtly political causes could explain why the BCR were so unconcerned with bringing in a speaker who was clearly going to elicit strong condemnation from the Asian communties at Berkeley, as eventually occured at the speech. More on Malkin and her speech soon. I also realize that I referenced a large protest attended by many campus Asian American groups while making a point that Asian American students are apathetic when it comes to explicitly political causes, but I think the special nature of the Malkin event is clear.
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