“What if I choose not to participate?”
Some staff and students were very upset when they were kicked out of lecture halls, offices, labs etc. some claimed their right to political freedom was being violated; “what if I choose not to participate…?” they cried. But some were just angry that the ‘barbaric’ were killing their vibe.
The question of the right to continue with business as usual; classes, undergraduates taking tests in their lecturer’s offices(this actually happened), online submissions at the computer labs etc. during the strike is a very thorny one. Looking beyond abstractions to reality, it is obvious that during the strike the claim by an individual or minority of the right to not strike is just an appeal to an illusory principle. Students managed to ‘shut down campus’ despite the court interdict that attempted to discredit and incriminate students, to an extend where management actually gave up and called it off.
If the strike was a small one, so small it could be neglected by management, this right could be exercised. So we realize that this right to work or not to strike is non-existent in a fully effective strike and can be exercised only if management decides to grant it in a partially effective strike. It is therefore a right to the aid of ‘the system’ when students need support the most. Indeed this right is therefore misplaced; this is actually not a individual’s right but a disguised right for the benefit of the management to use ‘strike breakers’ to defeat the strike.
This is an aspect that is evident in various student initiatives, students’ action can amount to the same effect even if there is no actual strike going on. All attempts to demonstrate or confront management require student support. Sometimes the oppressive minority or management ends up getting the upper hand and overruling our student leadership only because they can claim our struggle as non-urgent or that the students’ disinterest.
Non participation also harms student in the indirect manner; the student leadership can be easily swayed by management to sabotage the students’ movement and frustrate the few who are participating. The movement can easily change form, student leaders can make the movement about their own interests and not the students’ because students are not there to give mandate. At this stage the students are left defenseless. If a group of students branches out and runs their own movement not sanctioned by the SRC, they can easily be victimized by management.
During things such as polls, input sessions and dialogues one who claims a right to political freedom that leads to non participation is just being ignorant. This is because within these activities there is freedom to disagree or vote otherwise. The minority should be represented within such engagements to ensure fair representation and proper definition of the student body. It has been proven that at UFS when students don’t speak up, there’s a voice that fills that void and sometimes that voice can be a negative one.
So before you complain about your freedom to political choice think first of the effect of your actions. Yes it might be upsetting but is it worth it, to be an agent that’s being used by management to exclude, undermine and oppress students and prospective students.