I was going to write this week’s column about how great it is to finally be 21. You know, a rundown of all the drunken debauchery I can remember from the past week and a “thank you” to the good friends who have been kind enough not to bring up all the stuff I can’t remember from the actual night of my actual birthday. And, those friends do deserve a big thank you. Not only did some of them go out of their way to make it to the festivities thank you Richie but they also made sure that the birthday weekend was nothing short of awesome.
From kegs of Firestone thank you Tyler to enough J¤ger Rockstars and Vodka Redbulls to decimate a small country, my friends made sure I had a good time. And they didn’t even make fun of me for insisting that I wear a tiara when we went out downtown. But most importantly, they have all been nice enough to completely ignore all the ridiculous behavior begot by the lethal combination of birthday cheer, alcohol, and energy drinks – or at least not bring it up that often. Suffice it to say, my birthday weekend was incredible, and I have my friends to thank for it. Well, them and the cabbie who made sure we all got home safely.
But at the moment, there is a far more pressing issue I want to write about. Something that, believe it or not, I think is more important than even my finally-legal drunken adventures. The other day I found out that the University has decided to ban camping on-campus. I don’t have access to the exact press release they sent out – which does not appear to be available on their website – but I did get the following quote from a friend who received the release. “Effective immediately, to protect the health and safety of the campus community and access to and security of University facilities and property, no person shall camp or erect a temporary shelter on University property.”
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this new ordinance was inspired by the surfeit of sleepover demonstrations that occurred on-campus this year. From the Tent City erected next to Storke Tower by people protesting the Conquest evictions (amongst other things), to the similar-but-smaller city set up outside Campbell Hall to protest the UC’s involvement with nuclear laboratories, it seems that camping out became the preferred method of protesting at UCSB this year.
Sure, it was no fun trying to negotiate around some half-asleep hippie still in his/her sleeping bag while biking to class in the morning, and sure the midnight drum circles were absolutely infuriating to those of us working under deadline at the Nexus office under Storke Tower. And sure, the whole concept of holding midnight drum circles as a form of protesting, or consciousness-raising, or whatever, on a campus that is pretty much deserted after 5 pm seems kind of silly. But the fact of the matter is that at least the tent city-dwellers were getting out there and actively doing something with themselves. They may not have been entirely well-organized, and they may not have approached things with as much logical reasoning as some of us watching them might have liked to see, but they were willing to back up their ideals with some solid action, and that’s pretty admirable. And, at least when they went on a hunger strike, the only people they were hurting were themselves. I doubt that a bunch of tired tent campers pose much of a threat to anyone else’s safety. That’s more than I can say for the people making weapons in the UC-affiliated labs or the Regents making decisions that affect professors’ salaries and students’ fees at a barely-publicized late-June meeting that nobody was around to attend.
Now, I may be an adamant liberal and the child of a mother still stuck in the peace and love era – hell, I even enjoy tofu, granola, yoga, and outdoor music festivals. I guess you might call me a hippie (or at least a hippie sympathizer). But, I also have an incredibly pragmatic father and enough of a grasp on the way law, politics, and property rights work to know that if the powers that be at UCSB want to ban camping on campus, it is their prerogative to do so. Just like if I want to ban sobriety in my backyard, it is my prerogative to do that too. I couldn’t make the arguments I do about students’ rights to control what goes on at their homes in I.V. if I didn’t acknowledge that the administrators have an equal right to control what goes on on-campus.
That said, my problem with the camping ban is that the administrators decided to enact it during the summertime, when they know that student presence and involvement at UCSB is at its most minimal. I don’t know about anyone else, but I never received an e-mail in my U-mail inbox informing me of any meetings or deliberations on the topic. I know the administration has the technology to send such mass mailings, since they do it all the time. I also know that what students have to say about topics such as the camping ban is a minor consideration for the administration at best. But it should still be a consideration. Students are the ones directly impacted by the on-campus campers, as well as the ones doing much of said camping. Students lead a lot of the political activities in and around UCSB and students are the ones who are most directly impacted by the decisions the UCSB and University of California officials make. I don’t see any of the Regents’ hard-earned cash getting tied up with the manufacture and management of nuclear weaponry against their will.
It is our fees that fund much of UCSB, as well as the taxes we pay now and the taxes our parents paid before us. Essentially, that makes us paying customers of the UC system, exchanging our hard-earned dollars for an education and a college experience. Now, I understand that since we are students, the customer may not always be right in this circumstance. But, the customer does deserve the opportunity to express an opinion on matters directly impacting the quality of the goods that they are paying for. A decision like this – which effectively bans one of the main avenues of protestation available to UCSB students – should not have been made without some sort of student representation in attendance.
It’s a slippery slope from here to banning all sorts of other politically active collectives, and while we students may appreciate not having to dodge all the bible-thumpers and bleeding hearts bearing brightly-colored flyers when we’re late for class, being exposed to all the different causes – and people fighting for them – that exist right here on our campus is an education in and of itself. Restricting students’ ability to fight the proverbial man, when it’s our fees funding the man’s faculty club meal plan and cozy corner office, brings to mind the old taxation without representation adage. And, it’s only a matter of time before students returning from summer vacation catch on and, hopefully, raise quite a stink about this whole issue. Be warned UCSB administrators, there might be a lagoon full of tea looming in your future. Unless you want to ban tea too.