Wednesday, February 20, 2008

what a mess.

yesterday Alberto Gonzalez came to campus to speak.

i couldn't make the protest or the speech, since both were in the late afternoon/early evening time that entire slot was taken up by my voice lesson, my barely legal tryout, and choir practice. if i had been free that afternoon i would have joined the protest, since i can't see eye to eye with his views on torture and treatment of prisoners in the name of the "war on terror." that's not a reason that he should lose the chance to speak, of course, but a valid reason to protest.

the College Republicans, who brought him to campus, spewed this bull about how spending the money on a conservative speaker was necessary to balance out the liberal academic bias. it's true that academics are usually more liberal than the general population, and it's true that there ought to be conservative as well as liberal voices heard on campuses. however, bringing Alberto Gonzalez would do nothing, in my opinion, to cause a shift. polarizing figures like that are not the best people to initiate real political dialogue on campus. they preach to the choir. people who agree with him are not swayed away by speaking events like that, and people who disagree with him are not swayed toward him by speaking events like that. in the months leading up to yesterday's talk, i didn't notice any real campus dialogue arising. Gonzalez's supporters screamed in support, and his detractors screamed in opposition. it remained a shouting match.

i'm also quite annoyed about the price tag--his speaker's fee was $30,000, and that doesn't even count all the money that was doubtless expended on police and security staff. i wouldn't be bothered if the college republicans had done outside fundraising to get the money. but, no...they petitioned the university, and the university gave them the money. they could have spent that money on professors, facilities, student programming, even on a host of other political speakers who ran the gamut, and would have been more likely to start discussion instead of a contentious shouting match. but, no. they didn't. that bothers me.

***

aside from more overarching concerns...it was surreal in the music building yesterday when they were getting ready for the speech. [they did the speech there, ostensibly to keep all of the hullabaloo off campus.]

the rest of the stuff i was doing last night was on main campus, but my voice lesson is in the music building a few blocks from campus, out on the Loop. the building wasn't locked down, or even abnormal, when i arrived at 1:30. i went to a practice room, worked on my music for about an hour, and then went to the lounge to rest my voice and read until my lesson at 3:30. that is when things got hectic. hordes of police officers and security personnel entered the building around 2:45. they walked through the lounge where i was reading, and took over the faculty lounge. they shut the door, had some sort of meeting, and then started pouring out and inspecting the premises. there was even a bomb-sniffing dog for good measure.

around 3:00, a policeman walked up to me and asked why i was there. i thought it was rather obvious...i was in the music lounge waiting for a class. [why are students usually there? they're waiting for music classes!] the police officer asked to see some identification, and he looked at a list of people who were authorized to be in the building. luckily, my name was on the list and he didn't give me any trouble. i was, however, kicked out of the music lounge and told to find a new place to wait.

[why did they need the lounge as well? hadn't they already taken over the faculty lounge and the faculty mail room?]

i strolled off and sat in a practice room for a while until my lesson started. i had my lesson, and then went to go catch the bus. that was a nightmare as well. there were even more police officers swarming about. all of the entrances were secured, and all of the driveways around the building were barricaded. most of the personnel there didn't know what the others were up to, so it was total chaos. i finally caught the bus back to campus--thirty minutes late, because of all the traffic jamming and barricading and confusion.

i can't wait until next time i'm in the music building...when it's back to normal.

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