For three years I have supported Workers For Justice (WFJ) and tried to help by going to protests, boycotting the dining halls, and wearing WFJ buttons and orange armbands. The recent events have created an even stronger need for WFJ, but it is rather disappointing the way certain actions have been carried out. During these highly stressful and emotional times, it is hard for many of us to accept criticism, since it may be seen not as a critique of methods but instead as a critique of the cause. Yet in order to create productive and progressive responses to new changes, we must not be afraid or insulted by opposing commentary but rather use it to reflect and grow. With this in mind, I must say that the boycott on Wednesday and Thursday was done in such a manner that it encumbered itself. When people usually boycott, it is done to hurt a company or an organization financially. Since Pomona College’s rather large endowment would hardly notice one day’s worth of boycotting, it seems as if the boycott was done to show the numbers of people who are united in their displeasure or anger at the impending loss of valuable members of the community. Yet since the structure of the boycott created a sense of intimidation, no one can be impressed by the number of united distressed students because there is no way to discern who was in favor of the boycott and who was simply intimidated. The protestors—at Frary, at least—created a forceful noise that covered a large part of North Campus. Also, when I stopped by, the protestors moved in a large circle that made a strong physical presence since it blocked off most of the walking space for those trying to get to the Frary steps.
There are several arguments for using such intimidating measures, but I don’t believe they can be justified. If it was intended to create awareness, it could have been done in a manner that created openness for dialogue, response, and disagreement. If it was to express the sadness or anger felt by many in the community to those who have the most influence in the documentation authorization process, it could have taken place in a separate arena to make clear that those negative feelings were not directed toward students. If it was to display support for the dining hall workers, then there are ways to do it (such as the orange armbands) that do not cause intimidation. So while I support the cause of WFJ and am appalled and disheartened by those affected by the documentation authorization, I argue that the best way to handle this is to be fully aware of our actions and the results they induce.