#WashUproblems: Is not getting a Macklemore ticket really the only thing WU can get mad about?
Unless you’ve been living at Fontbonne for the last week, you’re probably aware of the Macklemore-snowstorm-Congress of the South 40 controversy that consumed Wash. U. last weekend. A prediction of heavy snowfall forced CS40 to move WUStock indoors to the Pageant and to limit the total number of tickets to 2,000. Within minutes of the email announcing the decision, a line began to form outside of the Residential Life office.
As the line got longer, it started to morph more and more into a mob. Despite CS40’s best efforts to keep things under control, chaos swiftly descended on the crowd once students began to realize that there was no way everyone in line was getting a ticket. People were cutting in line, passing their IDs up to the front and getting multiple tickets. When CS40 representatives announced that the tickets were all gone, something was visible in the crowd of thousands of disappointed students: collective anger. A hefty portion of Wash. U. was mad—and was not willing to be quiet about it. Wash. U. was united.
I won’t dwell on how unjustified this anger was—as awesome as a concert in a snowstorm would be, CS40 had no choice in the matter. The collective anger the student body displayed outside of the ResLife Office on Friday and on Facebook and Twitter all weekend faded away by Sunday, when those who got tickets went to the show and those who didn’t stayed on campus and did whatever it is they typically do on Sunday afternoons (for most, that meant studying). But for a few hours, we showed a hint of what we as a student body would be capable of if we united for a common cause.
Is a Macklemore concert really the only thing we’re capable of getting angry about? Is being denied tickets to a show a lot of us wouldn’t have gone to had it not been for “Thrift Shop” really the only thing that can shake us from our study-induced comas enough to do anything? There have been plenty of other things that we could’ve directed our collective anger to this year.
When tuition rose again toward the end of first semester, we could have staged sit-ins like students at Rutgers did in 2011, dressed up like zombies and interrupted meetings like students at the University of California-San Francisco did in 2012 or organized enormous rallies like students in Quebec did last summer. But instead, we grumbled quietly for a few days and then got back to studying for finals. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledging incident could have turned into a constructive school-wide movement for tolerance but instead turned into a divisive battle of bitterness and misinformation.
Wash. U. has not always been so apathetic toward social causes. In 2005, students staged a 19-day sit-in and hunger strike in Brookings Hall to demand living wages for hourly employees of the university—and succeeded. A Student Life poll during the protest indicated that over 70 percent of students supported the movement even if they disagreed with the methods. But since the rainy day in 2005 when Chancellor Mark Wrighton agreed to raise the wages and benefits of all hourly employees, very few social movements have found any success at Wash. U. In fact, the only two that have any broad supporter bases or organization today are the environmentalism and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender awareness movements.
What happened? Why can Wash. U. students no longer organize large-scale to make changes in our school and city? Maybe it’s because our schoolwork has started to take up more of our time as Wash. U. has become more and more of a competitive national institution. Or maybe it’s because as our student body has become more geographically diverse, fewer students feel a connection to the school or St. Louis community. Wash. U. is full of incredibly intelligent and incredibly passionate students who will undoubtedly go on to do great things. But we don’t have to wait until after we graduate to change the world—the collective anger displayed at WUStock proved that the Wash. U. student body could be a powerful force if united for a common cause. We can make things happen right here and right now if we can find something we all think is worth fighting for.