You Tell Us: Where should campus groups focus their efforts?

This is a space for you, the readers of BlogDailyHerald, to contribute your own opinions to the campus conversation. Contributions in the form of a less lame name than “You Tell Us” are also welcome.

Today’s topic: Should campus groups which organize around social justice, such as Students for a Democratic Society, agitate for change on-campus or off?

Continued after the jump.

On one side we have opinions columnist Jonathan Topaz ’12, arguing for national issues. In Monday’s column he writes:

“(M)aybe this is the year that SDS and the other Corporation haters in the Brown community can broaden their horizons a bit. The original SDS, a fixture of the New Left movement developed in the mid-1960s, was extraordinarily influential in dictating a national conversation on civil rights, nuclear proliferation and the Vietnam War. Since the Corporation has time and time again expressed its liberal sensibilities in making informed decisions, and since it reflects poorly on Brown that our focus is so firmly placed on our own, privileged community, it might be time for SDS to direct its righteous rage towards something more worthwhile. What SDS should turn its focus to is the escalating conflict in Afghanistan, which is quickly spiraling out of control.”

On the other side, we have guest columnist and SDS member Julian Park ’12. He writes in Wednesday’s column:

“As I understand it, the argument is that since Brown is already a progressive and privileged place, why focus on making it better, when there is the U.S.’s occupation of Afghanistan to be stopped? This argument makes no sense; these two goals are hardly mutually exclusive. Wasn’t it in the middle of the Vietnam War when our beloved Open Curriculum was adopted after student agitation? What if students of the day had listened to advice like Topaz’s? True, Brown is a privileged community, and kudos to Topaz’s acknowledgement of this, but the reality is that not everyone at Brown is equally privileged, nor do all potential students have the same access to this privilege. Students are the ones being affected by admissions, tuition and financial aid policies — it is our tuition dollars that are invested — so we should be the ones with the power to make decisions on these issues.”

What do you think? You tell us!


  1. Michael Fitzpatrick

    According to the National SDS “about us” page, the organization is “a radical, multi-issue student and youth organization working to build power in [its members’] schools and communities.”

    The keyword here is “multi-issue”. A large organization like SDS, which has over 120 chapters across the nation, is too large to simply ignore pressing global issues. However, an exclusive focus on national and international problems removes the individual chapters from their niches within their respective communities. The goal of creating a democratic society begins here in America, but it shouldn’t stop with America. Whether they’re protesting foreign dictatorships or Corporation transparency, I’d say that SDS’ time never goes to waste.

  2. EP2

    To claim the SDS was influential of anything forty to fifty years ago is simply the neurotic, narcissistic effort of the deranged left to feel relevant. Of course, that’s part of the modern day agenda of academia: brood, not teach.
    Congratulations. Once again Brown must revert to a former century to make itself into anything today.

Leave a Reply