College Admissions Boards Are Supporting Peaceful Protesters
On Feb. 25, Skidmore College publicly stated that high school students suspended for peacefully protesting will not be penalized by admissions, joining the rank of other universities -- including Brown, Brandeis, and Northeastern -- that have made similar statements. This development comes following the Parkland High School shooting, and nods to the future rallies happening across America in these coming months -- most notably the national school walk out on March 14. This move proves the validity of youth movements, but also brings into question how to effectively protest, especially for the Skidmore students not protected.
For most people, peaceful protests simply means being nonviolent. For Skidmore, Mary Lou Bates, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, the woman behind the public statement, defines peaceful as “initiatives that are lawful, non-violent, and not endangering to other individuals and their activities.” However, peaceful protests should not mean that they are unobtrusive or easy to digest. Protests thrive when people take spaces that do not accommodate their bodies and force both themselves and their voices into those places, whether that be academic buildings, town halls, or grocery stores. Change happens because of the rukus inherent in protesting, and that should not be silenced by differing ideas of what “peaceful” means.
It is also important to note that people of color have been protesting against gun violence for years without this type of scholarly protection. While it is necessary to call attention to this racial imbalance, we are not attempting to say the admissions protection is inappropriate or overdue; seventeen people being killed, regardless of their race, is devastating. We have boundless admiration for the strength of the Florida students and their supporters, and they deserve all the protection they can receive.
However, the idea of no-consequence protesting has raised a few concerns considering the effectiveness of protests more generally. It could be argued that the significance of protesting can only be measured by the amount sacrificed in order to voice one’s opinions. If schools say there will be no repercussions, does that diffuse the power of protests? Ultimately, if you feel strongly about gun control, women’s rights, or any other movement, the consequences of protesting should not be relevant -- and often, are not. We must also remember that certain people (whether because of their race, gender, or social status) have privileges over others, especially when it comes to consequence.
Perhaps more important than the protection granted by this statement, we hope, is the inspiration it may provide for more people to get active in their local community. Skidmore students make up about 10% of the Saratoga Springs population during the nine months school is in session. And even though we may not consider Saratoga home, we live here for a higher percentage of the year than we live elsewhere. Thus, local politics will continue to affect us as students, as evidenced by the recent, and disturbing, activity seen from the KKK.
However, finding out about protests around town is not easy. As of right now, most protests or rallies are heard through word-of-mouth or Facebook posts from groups students are already involved in. Organizations need to realize just how vital the Skidmore population is, as well as how active and passionate many students are. We urge townspeople to reach out and seek Skidmore students, or, at least, Skidmore political clubs -- such as the Skidmore Democrats and Republicans, who should work to inform and motivate students to participate.
Given the current violence sadly inherent in American life, it is important to use every resource we have as college students to voice our opinions, and support those already doing so. High school students that are joining the thousands of other brave students that have historically turned to activism deserve to be protected for speaking their minds. We must remember all the other voices that came before our own, and how they blazed a path to protection. We must remember that we are most powerful in numbers.