For all the ballyhoo leading up to the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference, I was quite disappointed with this past weekend’s lackluster protests. Where were the flying bricks? Even a hint of activist life on this campus (from Duke students, not flown-in protesters)? Considering the security measures in place and the money spent to protect participants and passers-by alike, I expected a lot more fun.
If you walked around the conference venues, it looked like a potential war zone—metal detectors, administrators on edge and security officers lined up at conference sites. All of this for just a run-of-the-mill event whose organizers complied with all University rules and policies on registration? The University said it treated the PSM conference as it does all student conferences.” Oh, really? How many conferences cost the University an arm and a leg for souped-up security? How many conferences require administrators to constrict Main West parties? Or the restriction of student movement on West Campus?
I wonder if the University treated “the PSM conference as it does all student conferences” by spending University money to truck in metal detectors, hire additional security and pay 50 to 60 administrators overtime to walk around as the first line of defense. How much money was diverted from other University issues or events to pay for a conference that only required organizers to properly register, not ultimately pay to host its own event?
Of course, this additional security was necessary given the nature of the conference, but what if the Debating Society wanted to host a wild debate tournament with hundreds of participants? Would the University step up to foot the bill?
And what if this debate tournament brought hundreds of crazy debaters to campus? Would the University restrict Duke students’ mobility on their own stomping grounds? This is exactly what happened on West Campus last weekend. West Campus residents could not access other quads with their Duke cards, and Central residents had no access to any quad. It was essentially the late-night policy the entire weekend.
Speaking of potential precedence, for what other events will Blue Zone drivers be forced to move their cars? A few dozen unlucky drivers had the distinct pleasure of moving their cars from the parking lot behind the Intramural building in the Blue Zone to accommodate PSM participants. I’ll remember to tow cars next semester when the Debating Society hosts its wild debate tournament.
Unlike wild post-tourney debate parties, this past weekend undoubtedly went down as the most boring on record and not because buildings were left unscathed. The Office of Student Activities and Facilities apparently instigated a “no more event rule” because security resources would have been spread too thin to cover the conference, the Freeman Center teach-in and the Sister Hazel concert.
At least one fraternity that had registered a section party was later denied registration because the group would be serving alcohol. Does this mean that the usual West Campus patrols were diverted to the conference sites? Were Duke students on the periphery of campus left unprotected so that conferees could be kept in check?
All of this imposition for typical Duke activism—a 10-minute walk across West Campus with signs, although this time we got “outsiders” to come to Duke and protest (and participate) on our behalf so that we could sit at home to play video games and drink at Parizades, just like every other weekend.
Why did the University bother wasting so much time, energy and money to ensure a safe and civilized event that so few of us attended? According to The Chronicle, only 100 students attended “some events” the entire conference weekend. That’s less than 2 percent of the undergraduate student body and less than the number of freshmen in Econ 1D. The Freeman Center teach-in didn’t fare much better.
For those who were comatose, last weekend’s events took place in our own backyard. Our University paid the security bill; we were the ones who were inconvenienced. If bomb threats and national furor won’t get us riled up, what will?
This campus is pathetic.
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Christopher Scoville is a Trinity senior.