W.I.L.D. for social change?

For the first time in recent history, political activism briefly took center stage at this semester’s W.I.L.D. Early in the evening, junior Alex Greenberg spoke on behalf of the Right Side of History, a new political movement at Wash. U. that seeks to engage straight youth in the struggle for LGBT rights.

W.I.L.D. as we know it is a place of carefree, drunken revelry, somewhere our campus has historically united in support of music and good times. The notion of a political speech in this environment initially caught many of us off guard. Greenberg’s speech, however, was delivered with a sense of raw emotion, realness and authenticity that made the political movement relevant to the event.

The more we think about it, the decision to include a political statement in the W.I.L.D. lineup conjures images of Woodstock and 1960s-era protests in which college students combined music and politics in an attempt to achieve social change. Greenberg’s invitation to the student body to join the start of a civil right’s movement “right now” recalls the days when Brookings Quad was the very site of activism on behalf of the black civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.

As college students, we entertain a nostalgia for an era we never saw. Our images of the 1960s form a vision of dedicated activism and charged concert environments that we cannot help but envy. Categorically, we admire student activism, particularly when it takes on creative new forms. A political statement at W.I.L.D. is one made with the capacity to engage more students than ever before.

Greenberg’s speech has the potential to be a starting point for true political activism on this campus, and a demonstration of student engagement in response to it may open doors for corporate support of The Right Side of History movement. In spite of the questionable receptivity of its intoxicated crowds, W.I.L.D. unites the student body more than any other event on campus. We commend senior David Dresner and the rest of the leadership of the Right Side of History for their ingenuity in using W.I.L.D. as a political soundstage. Moreover, we commend the leadership of Team 31 for taking a risk and allowing Greenberg’s speech to happen.

This activism, however, does not come without its flaws. Though Dresner was the first student leader to approach Team 31 about using the W.I.L.D. venue to spread a political message, we question whether The Right Side of History was the appropriate movement to change the nature of the event. The movement is very new and largely unestablished, and Greenberg’s speech—though well delivered —only provided inklings at what students may do to mobilize themselves for change.

We want to see more student activism on campus, and we like the notion of W.I.L.D. as a meaningful beginning for mass movements of social change. We also, however, want activism to be as effective as it can be. Greenberg’s speech was delivered early and came as a surprise to many in the audience. Better-fitting and better-publicized political activism could have the potential to cultivate even more passion among concertgoers.

And while we admire the traditions of 1960s activism, we fear that political messages delivered to intoxicated audiences have the potential to become unitary and unquestioned. In order for The Right Side of History’s movement to be effective, we must actively engage with the message delivered, and not simply remember it as a background to our W.I.L.D. memories.

If W.I.L.D.’s mission is to expand from good times into real political activism, we ask that Team 31 carefully consider how the statements delivered best fit into the concert’s format. Saturday’s speech is, potentially, the beginning to a tradition that can be honed and developed—a tradition that brings the social ruptures of our world to bear on a campus that can then begin to treat them politically as well as intellectually.

  • Dione Drew

    Patrick –

    Though I must admit I didn’t read through all seven of your comments, I must commend you on taking the time to respond so thoroughly! Next time, though, at this length, you should just submit an op-ed. :)

    -Dione Drew

  • Patrick Seaworth

    This is an opportunity for the community to finally say enough is enough, that as a school we are going to demand excellence in all things, this would be the most wanting example of the products the school is sending out to the world as the culmination of its thought.

    What was shown wouldn’t last a minute in a classroom with social and political scientist on the matter disregarding the emotional arguments.

    If you wish to make change it has to be done through actual practice not by forcing two communities together before those two communitites have come to a place where they can accept one another, for so ever long as the campus believes what was said was the right was in which it was said without the above precipitate, there never will be real change, and all will be waste of social resources and capabilities.

    The editorial board has a responsibility to be able to see the bigger picture and has as of this year failed its subscribers on more counts than the students have been months in class this semester.

    Dressner and the editorial board have the responsibility to apologize for what was done, and if they cannot, the school’s students have to say they should, or that they should not be accepted as a representative of the school’s norms and expectations of those persons so claiming representation of individuals of this campus.

    Until that day the movement can only be counterproductive and damaging to those individuals actually trying to bring about social change and (I do not say this lightly nor without consideration) an insult to those persons that have dedicated and sacrificed in the name of civil rights previously.

    Sincerely,
    Patrick S. Seaworth

  • Patrick Seaworth

    A social body with dignity and respect for the rights it demands (I would be in favor of granting rights to those that don’t deserve them, not here referring to the homosexual population, but rather to individuals that don’t deserve them based on their actions and indignities) doesn’t act in the way that this one is.

    A true social movement would be embarrassed to be associate with the act and so to should our student body.

    What was produce was an argument about something poorly done rather than a discussion about the issues at hand, which is quite common these days on campus.

    In order to advance the goals of human rights, we can’t accept acts that smack of the very lowest of humanity. What we saw was something similar to the speech given by shane at his elementary school graduation ceremony (weeds).

    I had an advisor that would say something along the lines of you are all grown ups responsible for your courses etc. so to, you are all responsible for the social trash that has been produced.

    If you all wish to enact social change it has to be done in a manner that shows respect for the human life and the human spirit at its highest not its lowest.

    What is now before the campus is the ability to change the very social ails which create hatred, the very social ignorances which produced a campus that believes the statement made and the manner in which it was made and the time in which it was made was an acceptable thing.

    Its not, and it never should be seen as an acceptable thing.

    Had Dressner stood up and been booed off stage, then someone would get up out of courage for the guy and said what was said. Without that first act there was no reason for the pre-emptive war launched against the social calm that is to be the very center of the WILD events.

  • Patrick Seaworth

    It is an act of movement as similar as the comment itself.

    It claims to want change for the entire society, and yet it is only concerned with changes of one segment of the population and is perfectly happy leaving the rest of society behind to fight its own battles.

    Whatever you wish to say about McCain this is something that can be learned, he stayed and didn’t leave early despite the fact that he could of because it wouldn’t be right.

    So too here, it wouldn’t be right for the homosexual population actually interested in social advancement to leave behind other groups of the population.

    Any movement of social equality concerns can’t pick and choose its issues, you either pick all social groups or you further the hatred you are speaking against, many time by the same members that are being advances. Consider for example if a member of the groups that were a part of the groups benefitted by previous civil rights movements is now in an administration position and is bigotted against the homosexual population, what good did it do to grant rights to an individual that then failed to see the necessity of other minority individuals holding rights.

    The paper should be ashamed that it has failed to even address the issue at hand. That is has produced yet another editorial which it uses to advance its own important without even taking a stance on a n issue, instead saying to a community that what was done had no wrong in it.

    What was done had a huge amount of wrong in it and needs to be addressed without anyone crying wolf as it pertains to individuals standing against what was done.

  • Patrick Seaworth

    If the campus is going to commit itself outright to making gay rights the issue, its selling itself short. Make human rights the issue. Make a chancellor that thinks nuclear power and clean coal are realistic alternatives to solving the energy crisis the issue.

    Make it the issue, that your female classmates will not be on equal financial footing upon graduation.

    Make it the issue that while many of the persons in the crowd that may support the ‘right side of history’ will not be able to vote if they are ever in need of an individual that manages their bills.

    Think to yourself how many persons in this country have individuals managing their bills. Imagine if each of those persons (many of whom may not be able to manage their bills period despite that they live with no mental disability) were not able to vote simply because their bills were managed by their accountant.

    Last time I checked, and I’m pretty sure it didn’t slip by on the news ticker without me noticing it, Homosexuals are able to vote.

    Homosexuals are allowed to go to the polls with the rest of society and cast votes in favor of candidates that are going to draft legislation that will bring about a legal footing mirroring their straight peers.

    If you truly wish to enact social change, you have to not stand in favor of any injustice. You cannot simple choose that this issue is at its time, in so doing you don’t force the society at large to actually change the thought process that produce the discrimination you are trying to fight against.

    Instead, you are merely changing the ins and outs and furthering discrimination within our society.

  • Patrick Seaworth

    We all support Dresner, if you look at the second comment one of the things mentioned was the failure to mention his own older brother, it is this kind of oversight that is apparently systemic within the group and its members.

    If we are truly to produce social change, allowing one individual to get up on stage and pretend that he is the only person with a gay friend that is disparately affected or further, that he is the only person fighting for gay rights and that if we are in with his social movement we are good people.

    Its crap (to use language reminisent of what was presented to the students) it shouldn’t be tolerated and the kid should make a public apology to all of the harm that he has enacted upon civil rights movements, not only in ruining the campuses ability to bring about that change on its own as far as social mechanism are concerned and secondly to the plethora of individuals that have seen the video on you tube and that believe that that is the manner in which one enacts positive change.

    Further, the impotence which is obviously present within any mind that thinks that the message presented clearly states the movement as it is, (take a second and think, the manner in which the message was presented says something about what that individual thinks of the audience receiving that message) obviously needs to be addressed and eliminated. It shows no respect for any member of that audience.

    No one needed anyone to stand up and say ‘Homosexuals in this country don’t have rights’, and if that needs to be said, then so to does, ‘mental health patients are disallowed the right to vote in some states’, and that ‘women are still making ~70 cents on the dollar’. If those all need not be said than none need be said.

    So long as the individual standing up and litteraly producing a pathetic appeal to a drunk audience it needs to cover all disparate treatment in this country not just the one that his twin has faced.

    As a campus before there can be any positive change (this doesn’t mean that change couldn’t be made without the change actually being positive change) the campus has to stand as a whole and say this kind of social garbage isn’t acceptable (above editorial included within that definition).

    That when we as a community want to address things we do so in a manner that shows respect for those things that we want to advance. Its not gossip girls out there, this isn’t an emotional issue to any individual educated on the matter when it comes to the actual civil rights movement (dot waste time saying it isn’t an emotional thing of course it is, the point being a pathetic appeal to an educated audience may encourage warm and fuzzy, however, it doesn’t do anything to advance the issue at hand merely to fail to address it and if all you can do is the warm and fuzzy leave it to the ‘big kids’ to do these kinds of things with the respect any true social activist would require in their acts).

    the speech itself contained the carrot to the stick on the scale of involved emotions thus legitimizing the carrot legitimizes the stick which in this case is violence which is now and never will be acceptable within mine nor the minds of any other social activist).

    Its a personal, religious, political, and social belief that is not going to be changed by anyone crying (emotion here exagerated for effect) to a group of people about his ‘homosexual friend’ that is the ‘exact same person as (him)’ Largely it leaves one wondering if he would care if dresner wasn’t the exact same person as him given his inability to adequately publicly address the issue.

  • Patrick Seaworth

    There is nothing more that can be gained within an educated audience other that social experience with members of another group. To placate the notion that it was a good try, is only doing a great diservice to the student body and only serves to lower the standards of the entire student body as it pertains to the dignity that should be attached to the manner in which statements are made, and the manner in which those statements are formulated, and the forum in which those statements are presented.

    See previous comments (http://www.studlife.com/news/2009/10/05/wild-delivers-music-good-time-and-political-activism/) & (http://www.studlife.com/news/2009/10/02/‘the-right-side-of-history’/) as it pertains firstly to the comment itself, and secondly to the movement.

    WE all want social change, however, none of us should be forced into subjecting ourself to change that will bring no change at all and change that only further engrains the very need for social change to begin with.

    If change is that pertinent why even attend wild? Why not have canceled Wild in favor of an activist event were people were actually being put to use rather than intoxicatedly either affirming or disagreeing with by voice rather than by action.

  • Patrick Seaworth

    What was taken that day, was the crowds ability to themselves create the change through social interactions without a callous and clearly blinder-ed babble being thrown onto a drunk and most likely significantly drunk and or high crowd (based on the report sighting method mans light your marijuana cigarettes and the reception it received and based on the number of fans pointing the wrong way last time I walked through the forty).

    It cheapens the ‘movement’ as it stands, if you wish to create social change, once a group of persons are already congregated, is not the time.

    Dresner apparently wants to speak to a crowd, well I say this to that, reserve the quad for yourself and your group and then speak to the people that come out in support of your group of the need for them to enact social change within their peer groups which will lead to the overall goal needed.

    Further, what was done was disrespectful to those persons the individual was proclaiming to be speaking on behalf of and insulting to the crowd so forced to listen to what was in no way shape or form a ‘good speech’ (if we are talking a national movement, we are certainly not talking little league soccer were no one keeps score and we need not pretend that we are for the sake of an individuals feelings who knew full when when he stood to tell the world about his homosexual friend of the fact that what he said was of importance and of all of the arguments that would be resulting from that statement because everyone in that audience already knows all of the arguments for and against).

  • Patrick Seaworth

    Again the editorial board has missed the point not only of the news they are to be providing (regardless of the above plug).

    What you have failed to realize in this editorial and in so many previous self-agrandizing editorials written to this student body is the mediocrity of the speech itself. To say that the speech was something that an individual could be proud of, or that we as a campus should be proud of, is beneath the level of dignity that will be required of any common social structure that will be able to produce the needs of a social movement capable of changing the course of history.

    By coming so quickly to a ‘we want a history of our own’, and a ‘we combinded music and ‘gay rights’ ‘ (which has been done for literally over a decade at this point, not taking into account rents 15 years in production, which strangely and sadly enough has not done away with the issues it served to address forget the fact that curing AIDs is going to take some time) you have failed to hold the student body accountable for the amount of awareness with which all actions should be taken in this realm, your brief comment saying you are hesitant at the turning of wild into a political forum etc., briefly mentions what should be the main point.

    What was said wasn’t well said, it wasn’t even adequately said. it wasn’t a good showing for a movement, nor is there any movement other than a discussion which at this point has not moved forward for decades among ‘enlightened’ individuals on this subject.

  • http://www.nsns.org Leah Pine

    Dear Student Life Editors,

    My name is Leah Pine and I run the National Student News Service. I’m writing to congratulate you on your extremely well-written and thorough editorial. Not only is it well-written and insightful, but it places student activism in an important and complicated context that is often ignored.

    While many student newspapers often neglect the stories that most directly pertain to students, this editorial shows the dedication that Student Life has to presenting their readership with the topics and questions that they need to consider in order to be active and engaged citizens in their local community.

    I’d like to talk to you about your work, and about internship opportunities for you. Check out our website (www.nsns.org), sign up for the news feed, and give me a call or shoot me an email.

    All the best,

    Leah Pine
    [email protected]
    (312) 291-0360 x236
    http://www.nsns.org