Student voice must be at the forefront of change

President Leslie E. Wong announced that a pouring rights agreement would not be settled Nov. 19 to a bevy of students and faculty members in the Seven Hills Conference Center.

The response from those in attendance was clear: Thanks for making the right decision, but include us in the conversation at an earlier point.

“Behind my back, an action was about to be taken,” said David Melville, 32, a business administration major at SF State. “(The University was) about to make a deal with a Coke company for exclusive pouring rights on my campus. Why were we not involved?”

The pouring rights agreement would have granted one major soda brand 80 percent of all shelf space at campus vendors in exchange for a one-time fee of $2 million and an annual fee lasting eight to 10 years of at least $125,000, according to the request for proposals.

Student groups and faculty voiced their opposition to the deal for more than six months, citing health issues and concerns about the funds’ allocation to the the athletic department.

Student activism isn’t new at SF State. Wong ceased plans to move forward with equipping University Police with Tasers following student protests and an Associated Students, Inc. resolution against the measure in 2014 but was overruled by the California State University System earlier this year. The College of Ethnic Studies is the product of student protests for increased campus diversity in 1968 and 1969.

Students across the country are demanding a greater voice in how their schools are run, from University of Missouri to Yale University, Ithaca College and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Activism is re-emerging as a viable way for students to be heard, and use of contemporary platforms is amplifying their messages in a way that wasn’t possible during the Civil RIghts movement.

Some have dismissed the recent student protests as rash, emotional and baseless complaints that are rooted in passion, not facts.

“The rush to judgment, with forced resignations and premature acceptance of wrongdoing, is a blow to administrative rationality, undermines the rule of law, and threatens civic relations,” wrote Michael Auslin in the National Review.

People only knock doors down when they feel like their voices aren’t being heard. Critics of student protests fail to understand that it’s impossible to quantify what years of institutionalized racism, sexism and homophobia have done. The current generation of students have had to sit idly by while the previous ones went to war, destroyed the environment and wrecked the economy.

Students pay thousands of dollars to be at SF State every year, and we deserve a say in how the University is run. Consulting with members of student government, holding open forums and listening to student protests are all great ideas, but it’s time to start putting them into practice before policies are implemented behind closed doors.