I did not vote for George W. Bush. My parents did. Now keep that in mind, because it’s the chief reason I’m not attending today’s protest.
At some point in high school I realized that my political views diverged from those of my family. I don’t know why. My brother grew up in the same household and votes conservatively, meaning that he falls more in line with the rest of my family than I do. Whether my liberal stance on issues like the environment, abortion, gay rights, the war in Iraq and national security stems from my heartfelt beliefs or a prolonged stage of adolescent rebellion is a matter for the family psychologist. I’m a blue sheep in a flock of red ones.
Today’s walkout offers an opportunity for blue sheep to band together and jointly baa-baa-baa in outrage at having to endure another four years of Bushery. I’m declining to join this barnyard chorus, however, because though I don’t agree with my parents’ political opinions, I can’t deny that their money keeps me in college.
Like a lot of the students who may read this column as they sit in a lecture hall before their professors begin today’s lecture, my family pays my college tuition. Students in such a fortunate position have an enormous load lifted off their shoulders and, I’d guess, an easier time muddling through college without having to simultaneously cope with academic and financial pressures.
I’d also guess that I’m not the only student whose family doesn’t lean toward the left. If you exist in this cross-section of demographics — a potentially large one, given UCSB’s reputation as a school with students coming from wealthy families – I’d advise you to remain in class today and voice your political opinions elsewhere. Ditching something you’ve already paid for proves nothing about your political awareness. It’s like buying a candy bar and then throwing it away to protest world hunger. Beyond that, ditching to protest Bush will only allow the conservative kids to experience better professor-student interaction.
Numbers generally terrify me, but I rationalized my decision with math. Quarterly tuition for a full-time student is $1,657. Divided evenly between three four-unit classes, that number comes out to $552. A typical Tuesday-Thursday class meets 20 times per quarter, which means that if you walk out of class today in order to protest a president who will still sit in office for a full four years, you could be wasting about $28 of your parents’ money.
That may not seem like much — it comes out roughly to a reasonably nice dinner on State Street — but because I’m grateful to my parents, I refuse to waste their money. They pay for me to learn. I should bother to actually remain in class.
If my parents wrote me a check for $28 and told me to spend it on school, I would feel bad if I trotted over to campus and pledged it all to CalPIRG. Regardless of my parents’ beliefs, I should respect that they pay for my education.
I’m as upset as anybody that George W. Bush is the president for another four years — and like it or not, he is your president — and I think the right to gather in public and freely voice your political dissent is a valuable one. However, I resent that today’s protest was designed to be a campus walkout. Education is the primary reason we’re here; chanting and pot-banging for political awareness should be an extracurricular, no matter how much you don’t like the president.
Sheep gather in flocks. That’s their nature. But just as UCSB has a few students who decided to stray from their families in their political opinions, I encourage students to truly think about whether wasting the money of their conservative-but-loving parents is worth it.
Go to class. Protest on your own time.
Drew Mackie is the Daily Nexus training editor.