Thoreau Read-In: A Rally Against the Proposed Budget Bill

Everyone across the state has been abuzz with Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget bill; rallies and protests being held not only at the capital, but at many of the universities, including our own. On Thursday the 17th, a multitude of students joined in a rally at campus, marching from one side of the building to the other. Another rally was held at noon in Main Place this past Wednesday the 23rd that was different in regards to the first. This time around, a group of professors led a read in of an abridged version of Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” followed with a discussion. The event correlated with support against the attack on collective bargaining, one of the major proponents in Walker’s bill.

The event was planned after one of the professors, Teresa Coronado, began posting bits and pieces of “Civil Disobedience” on her face book page. Another professor, Dr. Dana Oswald, commented, stating that she thought it would be a good idea to bring the essay to campus and the students in a way to show support for the cause. Soon, many professors and students were showing interest in the idea of a read-in. To Coronado “Civil Disobedience” is about how “a person’s conscious is who they are and cannot be governed by the state.” Professor Patricia Clearly added about how our society is built off of a list of social norms and appropriate behaviors and by protesting one is “breaking social laws and actively doing it…by disobeying the rules of society they are commenting on it.” Coronado then added, “You may have to break those politeness rules. Governments do not listen to politeness.”

Though “Civil Disobedience” was originally written about the abolition of slavery in the 1800s, as the essay was read it became clear that much of the message transcends its time period, gaining much relevance in current issues. Thoreau’s essay has been used to support many other civil protestors, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi. Though it was pointed out that Thoreau probably would not have been a fan of collective bargaining, he was someone that thought a person has the right and duty to obey their conscious above all else. “[If the bill goes through], part of the intellectual development we have at the university will be lost,” said Dr. Oswald, when talking of how some of our best departments may be at risk with such a budget as Walker’s proposing. She made sure to point out that in situations like these, we may “lose the small things that matter the most.”

A variety of professors read sections of the essay, from the English department to the History department, a professor of the Geoscience department, and more. Students were also part of the reading, some working against their fear of public speaking in order to give voice to a cause they believe in. “[Protesting] shows that [we] are not neutral!” said Professor McRoy of the English department. This is one of the main functions of a rally in support of a cause such as the reading; to get as many people from different backgrounds and lives to work together to fight in a common cause.

After the essay was completed, Professor Coronado read pieces of Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letters of Birmingham Jail.” Then, a discussion was lead, in which an example of civil disobedience was given in accordance to the situation: “The democrats fleeing to another state is an example of civil disobedience…[they left] to give us time to protest and speak and have our voices heard,” said Coronado.

In the end, there was a call for all students who came to try and find those who are indifferent to the situation and inform them, because one of the worse things in a time like this is to be indifferent.

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