Last semester, a surge of protests emerged on Penn’s campus following national attention on economic inequality and racial injustice. However, many students on campus were not accepting of the activism.
On the night of Feb. 25, leaders from several student activist groups — including Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation, the Student Labor Action Project and the Race Dialogue Project — came under one roof to discuss the perception and future of activist movements at Penn and across the United States.
The event, which was hosted by the United Minority Council, was titled “You Mad?: A Discussion on Protest.” The conversation focused primarily on the negative portrayal of protests both on campus and throughout the country.
UMC Chair Tanya Jain felt that a lot of what sparked outrage towards protesters was fear of change.
“Everyone loves structure, they love routine,” Jain explained. “When you disrupt the established structure, people get angry.”
While many people in the group agreed that a general fear of change had a lot to do with public opinion regarding protests, they also felt that much of the fear and anger was racially motivated.
“If a bunch of black people are protesting, the public perception is, ‘Oh, black people, they must be angry,’” added one discussion member.
The group also discussed the best ways in which to promote their various messages in light of protest criticism.
College freshman Krisna Maddy pointed to the Ferguson Friday displays, which were conducted by SOUL, as good examples of effective visual protests.
While the group members all supported visual protests, they disagreed on whether or not shock value was essential to a successful demonstration.
LPS junior Christian Sanoguel disagreed with the idea that shock value was necessary to get noticed.
“I think that the media already portrays African Americans as angry, so we’ll get noticed but not for the right reasons,” Sanoguel said. “I think that shock value is showing people the opposite of what they expect.”
All event participants did agree that sustaining student interest in issues such as Payment in Lieu of Taxes and racial injustice is an uphill battle for activist groups on campus.
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