As I posted previously, yesterday’s administration-sponsored “teach-in” on the campus’s recent racial troubles took an unusual twist about halfway through. A group of students affiliated with UCSD’s Black Student Union, declaring that the administration’s response wasn’t meeting student needs, staged a walkout. They would, they said, reconvene for a student-led session outside the building.
This “teach-out” was by all accounts amazingly effective, but there’s one detail in the press coverage of the incident that caught my eye. It’s been reported that as many as 1200 people were present at the administration teach-in before the walkout, and participation in the teach-out has been put as high as three thousand. But check this passage from a local television station’s coverage out:
Saying the university was doing little to address racism on campus, the pair urged their fellow students in the packed auditorium and overflow room to march out of the event, and the vast majority complied. … The students then gathered en masse outside. … The teach-in continued in the auditorium, but only with about 100 to 150 people, including a handful of students.
This is only one version of what happened, of course, and crowd estimates are notoriously imprecise. It may be a complete misrepresentation, and if it is, I’d love to have it corrected. But if it’s an accurate account of yesterday’s events, I find it fascinating.
The UCSD holds a teach-in to discuss a campus student crisis — an event for students, held in response to student anger at students’ actions. A group of student leaders reject that even as it’s happening, and abandon it it in favor of their own. Virtually all of the students — all but “a handful” — join the walkout, choosing the student-led event over the administration’s.
And more than a hundred faculty and administrators stay behind in the now-empty room?
I don’t get it. Your campus is in crisis. Your students are in crisis. And your students are taking the lead in forging a response to that crisis. They’re voting with their voices and with their feet, saying that they want to discuss the situation in their own venue, on their own terms. They’re having that discussion right now, right outside the room in which you’re sitting. And you don’t follow them? You don’t join them? You don’t seize this extraordinary opportunity to watch and listen and learn?
That’s just so incredibly weird to me.
Update | Since posting this, I’m hearing perspectives on the event that complicate and/or contradict the report I quoted. If you were there, free to leave your perspective in comments — I’ll be editing and updating more later.
February 26 | I’ve been told by a participant that the article quoted above isn’t particularly accurate. The students who marched out of the teach-in hadn’t been there from the beginning — they’d been participating in the BSU’s press conference and rally for much of the teach-in. The people who stayed after the walkout were mostly people who had been in the room before the BSU supporters arrived, and as many as half of them were students.