The University of California system took some predictable steps to tighten its belt this week in the face of the state budget crisis, cutting some services and boosting student tuition. Equally predictably, students across the state have responded with a series of self-concerned protests, taking over campus buildings at Berkeley and UCLA.
Perhaps most predictably of all, the New York Times has started in with its faux-poignant protest coverage, as illustrated in this slide show (complete with a don’t-tase-me-bro moment). Two things about this mess:
First and foremost, the protests are about privileged kids demanding subsidies from working people. The UC system will continue to be heavily subsidized by taxpayers, and the students who attend are among the most naturally gifted, with the highest future earning potential, in the country. This is especially true at the system’s flagship schools of Berkeley and UCLA, where the protests have been most intense. Narcissism and self-absorption are the norm on college campuses, but it really is pushing the limits to throw such a tantrum at the idea that you will be getting a smaller amount of free money taken out of the paychecks of strapped taxpayers, most of whom could never dream of the advantages and opportunities you enjoy.
Second, these protesters claim the mantle of the free-speech movement, but it is a betrayal and a subversion of the principles of free speech to forcibly occupy a school building and block out its rightful owners and occupants (including other tuition-paying students). The very idea of free speech is to facilitate the peaceful exchange of ideas, without allowing the use or threat of force to distort the process. The whole enterprise suffers when thugs begin breaking out the chains and barricades and committing property crimes in order to get their way.