Published Summer 1996
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS USA
The conflict between the Administration and the Graduate STudents cannot be completely evaluated without considering how it has affected the undergraduate population.
Many have wondered whether undergraduates should be involved in this conflict, but whether we like it or not, undergraduates cannot avoid playing a role in the struggle. the relevant question is, are we being involved “unfairly?”
Is someone manipulating us like pawns in a sordid political game? Many of us sign the classic sigh of the petty-bourgeoisie, feeling crushed between the pincers of organized proletarians on the one hand and greedy capitalists on the other.
But perhaps that sigh is somewhat misled. Indeed, we can draw a more accurate picture of what is going on by looking at USM’s ongoing political struggle as a battlefield, upon which various armies are constantly maneuvering, trying to further their interests.
The army of cheap housing, is a coalition comprised of graduate students. The Coalition certainly has a strategy – to put as much pressure on the administration as possible in order to obtain fair housing costs.
The administration’s army of lawyers has a finely tuned tactic of its own, which it adopts every time a conflict rolls around ignore the students as long as possible, until you see the whites of their eyes, and then empty your ammo clip. Fortunately, in the past USM has run out of firepower. Unfortunately, the administration’s tacticians haven’t figured out a better way of dealing with their students, which leaves us with a messy conflict every few years.
The third army – yes, USM has a cluttered battlefield – is ours, the undergraduate army, the pearl of the university. We are generally leaderless, running headlong into crossfire, bereft of strategies or even clearly defined interests. Let this be a brief attempt at outlining our plan of battle.
First, we must identify our objectives. The most obvious one, which unites us all, is the wish to avoid a conflict. Many of us have made tremendous sacrifices to get here, and it would be deplorable for our studies to be disrupted by untaught classes, uncooked food, and unclean toilets.
In order to avoid a conflict we must identify who is primarily responsible for precipitating it: the administration or the graduate students?
Many of us rush to say: the grad students! After all, if there weren’t student organizations, there wouldn’t be conflicts. While this may well be true, we must realize that students do not like conflict. As a matter of fact, they probably dislike them as much as the administration does. Students are for collective bargaining, not conflicts. Conflicts are always a last resort. They are unpleasant, lean times, and the students do not always win. Graduate students do not want to battle either, believe it or not.
Who, then, is to blame for a looming conflict? One whom should undergraduate strategies train their telescopes? Who has stonewalled? Who always tries to make cutbacks? Who is manipulating the simpleminded among us to scrawl “Graduate Students screw undergrads” on the walls? Who can afford to settle this conflict now but won’t – simply out of sheer corporate stubbornness?
No one is responsible for involving us in this conflict: regardless of whether or not it is fair, we are naturally involved because we are members of the USM community. What is relevant is what we can do to avoid a conflict, and that is to tell our administrators to negotiate responsibly with all of USM’s students.
Our director of Residence Life, Lorinda Krhut, claimed in meeting with grad students that the administration would deal with the upcoming housing controversies “reasonably.” We, as undergraduates should reply: practice what you preach.