Longtime readers of this site have probably noticed that I don’t often offer negative judgments of the organizing efforts I cover here. If I’m impressed by a project, I’ll sometimes say so. If I’ve got specific constructive criticisms, I’ll occasionally offer them. If I disapprove, I’ll usually keep my opinions to myself.

There are a few reasons for this. I’m usually observing events at a distance, and I’m well aware of the perils of relying on second-hand data. I also recognize that situations are complex. I’m not quick to judge, even privately, and I figure you’re all capable of making up your own minds.

Having said all that, though, I do want to talk briefly about some of the judgments I do make.

The last three and a half weeks have been an extraordinary moment in the history of American student activism. Buildings have been occupied, and often barricaded. More than two hundred campus activists have been arrested. Police have used violence against students with a frequency and intensity that are deeply troubling.

The fall semester is almost over, but the spring is coming soon, and there’s little indication that it will be a quiet one. We’re most likely going to be seeing some turmoil on the campuses in the months to come, and I’m most likely going to be reporting on it, so I want to make a few things about my position, and this site’s position, clear:

First, I’m morally opposed to the use of physical violence as an activist tactic. I don’t believe in throwing things at cops. I don’t believe in manhandling security guards. Hell, I don’t even believe in pie-ing people.

Second, I think that destruction of property is usually a really bad idea. It’s clear that vandalism is deeply unpopular among students and non-students alike. If an action causes significant property damage, that fact will be used as an effective weapon against other activists. Is destruction of property immoral? Buy me a beer and give me a specific example, and we’ll debate it as long as you like. Is it stupid? In almost every case, yes, I believe it’s deeply stupid.

And if you damage property in such a way as to risk causing physical harm to someone, that’s both stupid and immoral, in my book. If you throw a rock at a window in the course of a protest, you’re telling me that you’re willing to put shards of glass into someone’s face, because there’s no way to throw a rock at a window in the heat of a protest without risking someone getting hurt.

And if you’re willing to take that risk, you and I aren’t on the same side.

Edited for clarity after posting.