The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Lane: Debt protest needs solutions, not anger

The reason Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi (along with those who joined them) are remembered for their acts of nonviolent peaceful protest is because they not only protested, rallied, and marched incessantly, but did so with purpose and with answers to the problems they were identifying.

While last week’s student-debt rally certainly paid homage to the brilliance of the work of men such as King and Gandhi, it did not fully capture the effectiveness of such campaigns.

Lowering student debt (or at the very least freezing it) is an honorable cause, to be sure. Not only here in Iowa City but around the country, student debt is crippling to individuals who graduate.

Understandably, increasing tuition angers thousands of students on campus.

But when dozens of such students congregated on the Pentacrest for the rally — organized by Campaign to Organize Graduate Students — displaying anger appeared to be the primary cause for the gathering.

In reviewing several accounts of the rally by both The Daily Iowan and other local news sources, it was clear to me one critical piece of a strong rally was missing — a fully developed solution as the focal point.

Naturally, the two major sources of financial support for the university are students and state funding. While the state shifting more money toward education would allow students to pay lower tuition, thereby lowering student debt, this idea doesn’t explain which programs would suffer losses in this budget realignment.

“Stop balancing the budget on our back,” argued the protesters. Fair enough.

But when, according to the DI, tuition makes up 60.7 percent of the operating budget of the university, and a slight tuition increase (of 1.75 percent) will keep the university operating in its current state and competitive with other major universities, simply telling the state Board of Regents to balance its budget elsewhere isn’t really proposing a complete solution.

And if a rally isn’t proposing a solution to a problem, then all it’s really doing is complaining, loudly. The fact of the matter is the regents, and everyone else, knows students don’t want tuition to rise. So my question is, then, what was the point of this rally?

Bringing an issue about which several people care to the attention of those in charge is always worthwhile. But this was not the reason nonviolent peaceful protests were successful.

To be successful, a nonviolent protest must have two major components. First, the demonstration must present the issue and prove people truly care about it. The rally passed this test with flying colors. The next, arguably more important aspect, is presenting a logical solution. While the rally and the group behind it scraped the surface of a solution, it didn’t seem to be the focal point.

According to the DI, Deloitte Consulting claims its efficiency proposals for the regents could save up to $80 million a year. Plans such as these, which work toward solutions to financial discrepancies between actual tuition costs and the desired tuition is something I would like to have seen arise from this rally.

Although I agree something must be done to lessen the effect of student debt, I don’t think last week’s rally provided the regents or me with an answer to that problem.

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