Passivity is not Pacifism

by Zach AdamsContributing Writer (zadams@fandm.edu)

By the end of February Franklin & Marshall will come to the decision of whether or not to arm its Public Safety officers. Either because of apathy, ignorance, a self-reassurance of being too busy to care, or, likely, a dangerous mixture of all three, the student body has remained seemingly lethargic in the face of such a crucial decision.

Earlier this year, the Phillips Museum showcased an interactive piece entitled, “The Protest Tree,” in which students pasted sticky notes to a wall. If the installment wasn’t a commentary on the futility of passive social engagement, then it was just depressing.

No one sits under the Protest Tree outside Distler anymore. Few would even recognize it. “The Protest Tree outside Distler House reflects the endurance of 226-year-old Franklin & Marshall College and liberal arts education,” author Peter Durantine wrote without a sense of irony in the caption of an F&M News article earlier this year. The tree is flanked by benches these days — sit down and get comfortable with the status quo.

I have attended every meeting on arming where I was allowed. A few others have done the same; I recognized their faces. But why have the overall attendance numbers been so low? At best, 35 students attended the largest meeting. Giving the student body the benefit of the doubt, perhaps 200 students have attended at least one of the meetings, but that’s less than 10 percent of us.

It can’t be the time commitment; the discussions have taken place on multiple days at different time slots. And let’s not kid ourselves: it’s not just these opinionated arming discussions that suffer in the numbers game — there are plenty of Common Hour events each year with lackluster attendance. People go to the events they already know they’ll like, not ones that might make them feel uncomfortable or challenged. I’ll be the first one to admit I skipped out on last week’s Common Hour, and I certainly regret it.

How many of you voted in the mayoral election? How many of you voted in the last presidential election?  How many of you know details about the typhoon in the Philippines (and haven’t just heard about it from a charity or on Facebook)? Living in the campus bubble is no excuse for not looking out of it.

I started writing this piece to argue my case against the arming of Public Safety officers. I’m putting that off, however, because students first need to gather their thoughts and actually form opinions.

The people who take this decision lightly, who take it sitting down, are the same people who later in life won’t have the courage to ask for a raise, a promotion, an assignment. The uninterested, the passive, the apathetic, the weakly ambivalent — they will be the faces others step on as they climb to the top. And as the shit on the shoes of those who crush them reaches their taste buds, they’ll find spitting to be an inconvenience. Rather they will reconsider their dissatisfaction with the flavor.

I hope you read this and think to yourselves, “Who the hell does he think he is!?”  Good. I want you to constructively channel your discontent. I want you to be nonplussed.

Read more about the proposal to arm at fandm.edu/arming — do your own research, make your own conclusions, and join the discourse.

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