North Texas Daily

Student protests must be heard by those in power

Student protests must be heard by those in power

Student protests must be heard by those in power
February 10
11:09 2022

Think about an injustice you’re passionate about and pretend as though you are going to plan a protest for it. You put in days of work recruiting help, making signs, planning and announcing its date and time, posting on social media and then actually holding and attending the protest.

Imagine: you and your fellow protesters dedicate all this time and energy to advocate for changes you’d like to see made, only to have it dismissed outright by the individuals who can make those changes. It hurts, doesn’t it?

Marches, walk-outs, boycotts and sit-ins: these are just some types of non-violent protests we have witnessed as a nation throughout history. Specifically, at the university we have seen demonstrations such as these take place on our own streets and sidewalks, most recently taking place at the end of January. 

As covered by the Daily on Jan. 27, students and faculty gathered on the Union South Lawn in opposition to the university’s lack of flexibility regarding remote learning options. The protesters’ frustration is based upon health and safety concerns, as well as their feelings about inescapable high-stress environments, specifically within university classrooms as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across North Texas.

More than 50 university members took time out of their day to not only organize but attend the protest. The least university administration can do is hear out protesters’ concerns and make an effort to amend current policies to accommodate individuals who have similar wants and needs. Sadly, it isn’t looking like this will be the case.

University President Neal Smatresk gave several reasons as to why offering remote course options would be practically impossible. Examples include, but are not limited to, claiming that some professors wouldn’t want to put into work to accommodate online students, as well as making unwarranted assumptions about students’ mental health statuses regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smatresk gives plain lazy excuses that do nothing except aggravate those who demand these changes and prove the university administration’s ignorance toward student needs during these times.

Campus protests are not held because we think it might be fun to gather and hold signs for a few hours. They are held so students’ thoughts may be projected loud enough to make a lasting impact not only for themselves but for future classes that may face issues similar to ones we are fighting right now.

It is high time the university takes its students’ and faculty members’ concerns to heart, especially now that it has come down to life or death for some. It needs to stop treating students’ expressed desires as a joke. We all must be treated with respect and dignity, and this starts with our voices being heard.

Despite the glaring faults in the university’s approach to this sensitive situation, it is still important to consider logistics and whether or not our demands are reasonable. It is currently mid-semester, so it is unlikely that any significant changes are made before we reach the end of the term.

Students must be patient and allow for the university to assess all possibilities so the best decisions for everyone’s safety can be made. Even considering these aspects, there are not any excuses the university could make to not at least compromise on this matter, or any matter going forward.

This being said, to gain students’ faith, the university must prove to us that it is actually making an effort to accommodate all of its members’ needs, even if these efforts won’t be acted upon until later in the year. Students and faculty chose and continue to choose UNT for its reputation of equality and acceptance, but if the administration does not exhibit these traits when they are called upon to do so, where does that leave us?

As students and faculty, but most importantly as Eagles, we must come together to advocate for our needs and demand appropriate action from our university leaders. Holding the right individuals accountable, publicly and loudly, is the wisest way to evoke the responses we are looking for. So go out, yell and be unwavering in your opinions. If we work hard enough, eventually we will get what we deserve.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Natalie VanDerWal

Natalie VanDerWal

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