In the middle of a swarm of student protesters sat a police car, holding a student who had been arrested for distributing literature about the Civil Rights Movement.
That car didn’t move for 32 hours as students blocked the vehicle from leaving as people spoke about their right to free speech.
This protest occurred at the University of California at Berkeley and started the Free Speech Movement in 1964.
According to The New York Times, 700 students were arrested that day in 1964, and that protest sparked the Free Speech Movement, which caused other college campuses at the time to speak out in an anti-war movement and spurred discussion about civil rights.
Is there ever a time you can think of with that many NC State students advocating for cause?
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the protest, and the Technician staff thinks it’s important to remember the actions of the students who participated then, and to put into perspective the protests we’ve seen on our campus.
In April 2013, Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget proposed a $140 million cut to the UNC-System.
A strong cohesive voice representing the student body failed to emerge, and McCrory went on to sign those cuts into law with the aid of a Republican-dominated legislature.
However, students at NC State haven’t always stayed quiet.
In 2001, 500 students participated in a sit-in and marched at midnight to Chancellor Mary Anne Fox’s residence to oppose cuts to library hours. When $125 million was proposed to be cut from the UNC-System, more than 5,000 students marched to the state capitol that same spring in protest.
Library hours weren’t cut that year, and the budget cuts were never implemented.
When the university announced the sale of the Hofmann Forest to Hofmann Forest LLC, led by Jerry Walker, a farmer from Illinois, many students, alumni and faculty members expressed outrage about the sale of the forest and held numerous protests on campus.
Now almost a year after the sale, the deal regarding the 79,000-acre forest has taken a dramatic turn.
Last month, university administrators announced a new deal that involved an Alabama-based Resource Management Service purchasing 56,000 acres, with Walker’s company walking away with 23,000 acres. The deal is set to be finalized by Nov. 2.
It would be foolish to suggest that the protests and on-campus gatherings of those who stood against the sale were the only reason that university administrators decided to alter the deal, but we think the questions raised to Chancellor Randy Woodson about the sale had some impact on the process.
The idea that students such as those at Berkeley can start a movement shouldn’t seem like such a foreign idea.
It’s possible on our campus to influence change and advocate for things we care about. College students have had an important voice in society in the past, but we shouldn’t relegate that power to history books. If students today can shelve their apathy and overcome fear of failure, they can make big changes in the world around them.