Student-Administration relations have been a hot topic for students who witnessed the chaos that ensued on campus Spring 2015. Throughout this paper I plan to use the Divest sit-in to discuss power relations on campus. I will also explore definitions of routine versus non-routine collective actions. This is a very important theme to convey because there have been many different narratives surrounding the sit-in.
It all began as a routine collective action tactic. I have come to this conclusion by drawing on information found in the USA Today article. It explains that Divest UMW had been involved with the decision making processes going on within a subcommittee created by the Board of Visitors. This was a planned and peaceful process that was rooted in solidarity and had unifying goals, a picture perfect routine collective action process. Though after plans had been proposed and declined the students took an alternative route to bring about change.
Drawing from the Useem reading, the argument that young people are more active in protests and committing crimes from these protests becomes more clearly represented. From an outside perspective there is evidence that the Divest students took a civilized process and created chaos due to the lack of instant gratification. This argument utilizes the Useem argument and ignores the outside forces at play. The students took further actions and put together a sit-in in the George Washington Building on campus, outside President Richard Hurley’s office. The action was peaceful and was non-violent, though through the eyes of the administration it was an issue of student health and safety.
On April 15th 2015 the administration, Doug Searcy and Richard Pearce, delivered a letter to the students explaining that if they didn’t vacate, they would be considered trespassers subject to police intervention. This is where non-routine tactics become more relevant. The students were being labeled as trespassers on their own college campus and would be removed by the police. This is where we see solidarity breakdown.
It is most interesting to me that the power to consider students trespassers on their own campus comes from the vice president of student affairs and the vice president for administration and finance. This speaks to the levels of power that the administration as a whole holds over the students. It would be more detrimental to the school’s reputation if Rick Hurley signed these documents, however his power would not be questioned.