For as long as there have been causes to fight for, people have come together in droves to voice their opinion. This rings all the truer for university students.
As anyone who was present in the University Community Centre yesterday morning well knows, a group of students staged a protest outside the University Students’ Council office against the Election Committee’s decision to invalidate the results of the Student Refugee Program referendum.
Protests are not a new phenomenon. They come in a variety of different forms, be it speakers and signs, a mass of people congregating in Toronto, or a sparse number of concerned students standing vigil on Concrete Beach. But on the whole they generally have the same goal — to create awareness of an issue. Seeing people march in the streets might not be the sole cause of new laws or policies, but it can be the catalyst of real change.
While people marching en masse may be a rare sight these days, that doesn’t mean people aren’t speaking out. Groups still work to spread information and spread awareness — they simply use other forums, such as the internet and, more specifically, social media.
Trading loudspeakers and physical signs for Facebook groups and anonymous website comments are definitely a sign of the times, though this isn’t a wholly positive change. Anonymous internet comments can be seen as the perfect example of “slacktivism” — people looking to get satisfaction from doing the least amount of work possible.
Nonetheless, if the internet and social media are used to effectively disseminate information and spread awareness, they’re indeed useful tools. Whether a protest is held physically or online, if it’s simply a group of people looking to whine and complain, it really doesn’t benefit anyone.
In the case of SRP, the protest seems to be more about pressuring an opinion onto others as opposed to creating awareness. Perhaps the group’s time would have been better spent on the more reasonable avenue available to them to address their problem — the formal appeal process.
The group, as of now, fully intends to appeal the Election Committee’s decision to invalidate the referendum results. The issue is that instead of just appealing, they’ve taken up a loudspeaker and stood on a soapbox to gain attention.
While not a bad thing, it’s questionable how helpful it will be to the SRP’s cause. The protest could end up emboldening the USC to more fervently defend their position, or bury the real concerns under a layer of increasingly complex and irrelevant social justice concerns.
—The Gazette Editorial Board