September 29, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Dead-in degrades deaths

By Jonathan Pfeifer, Webster alumnus 

At noon on Monday, students held a “dead-in” at Marletto’s and the University Center. This protest consisted of multiple students shouting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” before dropping to the floor to play dead for four and a half minutes.

This type of protest raises a lot of concerns in my mind. I don’t believe it is ever OK to stage any type of mock shooting situation in a college building. Even if a decade’s worth of school shootings weren’t enough, not even a full week before this protest, a high school student in Maryville, Wash. shot five of his classmates in a school cafeteria before taking his own life. It is deeply disturbing to me that no one involved in this display seemed to take this into account before playing dead on the cafeteria floor.

Protests in the name of Mike Brown are becoming more of a novelty than anything else. To me, the purpose of protest is to educate a group on a topic or effect change in some way. The “dead-in” did neither, but instead appeared to be just a social stunt.

I am still as much aware of Mike Brown, white privilege, police brutality and gun violence as I was yesterday. The only new information I have learned is that some Webster students seem to be extremely tactless and lack common sense.

In my opinion, college students aren’t handling protests logically. I’m still confused as to why — when education is our best defense against ignorance — students walk out of class in protest. But to stage being shot in a university building is a whole different level of disgusting.

I have been in Sverdrup Hall when the whole building was put on lockdown. It was not a fun situation. I certainly didn’t feel it was a situation to be mocked. Yet that is what appears to have happened here.

Regardless of whether the students were acting out a shooting situation or not, to the casual observer, that is what it resembles. Was there really no better way to get the message across? Getting a crowd to play dead in a school feels like screaming “bomb” in an airport. You just don’t do it.

I am now an alumnus of Webster and have been following the protest through pictures, videos and stories via social media and The Journal. I still have friends who attend Webster, and this kind of attitude toward very real emergencies makes me worry about their safety.

According to the student handbook, protests and demonstrations must be brought to the attention of the administration 24 hours beforehand. It would seem very poor judgment on the part of the school. If it was not brought to the attention of the school, I hope they will take the proper steps to make sure it does not happen again.

I am all for free speech. If not for that right, my degree would mean nothing, but what happened on Monday was downright irresponsible.

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