It’ll Take More Than Old Slogans in a Bottle

A Sunday morning walk across campus doesn’t offer much in the way of visual stimulation. Both bedheaded and dismayed by the fact that there’s still nowhere on campus to get decent coffee at 11 a.m., I’m not typically very aware of my surroundings before that obligatory second cup, nor in any place to make observations more insightful than “Shit, I knew it was a bad idea to wear suede.”

Today was a little different. Passing through Muir College, I saw something to force me out of my mid-morning haze — something so uncommon here that I had little choice but to stop and wipe the sleep out of my eyes to be sure that what appeared before me was not a mere hallucination or sleep-deprived mirage: graffiti.

The mere sight of the tagged building was almost startling enough to make me wonder if I was still on our campus, and not in an alternate universe in which students get angry enough to deface school property and coffee shops are open on weekend mornings. The text itself was equally striking: The first bit read “No Justice, No Peace” in red lettering, and the other end of the building read: “Know Justice, Know Peace” in blue.

At a time when both justice and peace have come into question on campus, the writing relayed a simple message — a call to action, really — that, displayed brazenly in one of the most trafficked areas on campus, is also impossible to ignore. Though I’m not usually the biggest fan of campus graffiti outside the infamous hipster confines of the Mandeville Center stairwell, the lit major inside me had to admit: It’s powerful phrasing.

Just as I finished out my trek to the Student Center, though, I found another tag. This one, scrawled onto the doors of the elevator, in the same red spray paint, read: “No 32%” (i.e., “Don’t raise our student fees by 32 percent”). It was next to a spray-painted advertisement for our on-campus protest on March 4.

My immediate reaction — “Yes, 32 percent: That’s how much more we’re paying.” — might have been cynical. But of all the things to protest on this campus — racist frat parties, dramatically reduced course offerings, the recent funding freeze for student media — a fee hike for which we’ve already begun to pay (and that the UC Regents approved three months ago) sits pretty low on the rank of feasible targets for current reform.

Of course, I’m not saying that we should hang our heads in defeat and leave it at that. But expressing misguided anger with a can of spray paint on an elevator door doesn’t accomplish anything beyond serving as a perpetual reminder that yes, actually, tuition is skyrocketing — or if not perpetual, at least until one of the same underpaid UC workers whose rights protesters advocate is tasked with cleaning it off. For all the cans of spray paint we empty for the cause, until we’ve got a stabler stream of funding from the state, our ever-swelling list of TritonLink fees won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Assuming that what results on March 4 isn’t merely a pissed-off band of student rebels who know little about areas of remaining potential for change, there’s plenty of opportunity to show the governor and the regents alike that we’re a force to be reckoned with — but we can’t very well expect to be taken seriously if we’re spouting the same old complaints. For a bit of education, attend the teach-in today, Feb. 22, in Social Sciences Building 107 at 12 p.m. with guest speaker Bob Samuels, President of the UC American Federation of Teachers.

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