Letter to the editor: Did somebody say “riot”?


Editor’s note: The May 2 Strike Committee members asked to remain anonymous for this column. 

There seem to be mixed reactions about some graffiti that showed up on campus, like a ghost from decades ago. One wall of Faner Hall declared “Debt Rules Everything Around Me, monthly monthly bills y’all.” Indeed: the university today runs on student debt, whereas in other developed countries, university education is seen as a right and tuition is free or nearly free.

It was the second wall — disappeared by the administration with a swiftness that would make any totalitarian government jealous — that caused more of a stir. On the east side of Faner Hall it said, “Riot proof? We’ll see.” These four words touched a nerve.


This makes sense. This university is shaped around the trauma of the riots of 1970 — riots sparked as most riots are, as a response to police tear gas. Faner was built as a monument to the administration’s fear of student power breaking out of established channels for their discontent.

It only makes sense that the student energy, repressed for more than 40 years, would have that event as a reference point.

Today, students are waking up once again as it becomes more and more clear to them (and everyone else) that those who hold power are wielding it against the rest of us.

As things stand, young people are entering a world of environmental destruction and a repressive police state ruled by an oligarchy beholden to corporations. They enter this world saddled with debt, holding in their hands degrees that have lost all meaning. This is the context in which we have called for a student strike on May 2. This context — this world we are being educated to inherit — is what is important to us, not some graffiti.

But let’s just say outright: there are absolutely no plans for a riot on May 2. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “riots are the voice of the unheard.” Our plan is to make ourselves heard with our voices, our bodies and our joyous creativity by interrupting the deafening pace of everyday life. We don’t plan on breaking anything other than the miserable routine. We ask you to join us in this, assured that our aim is to intervene in the slow motion destruction of university education, of the lives of people around the state and of our collective future.

The May 2 student strike is against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget fiasco. It is against the administration, which consistently prioritizes their own lavish salaries and pensions over the cost of education for students. It is against the way university education is being reshaped into job training for corporations — abandoning its role of empowering people to create a world that responds to their needs for goodness, justice and beauty. We ask you to read our Call to Action, and decide whether you too are fed up with the grievances we’ve listed. We ask you whether any of the demands we articulate point in the direction of the world you want. If so, then this strike is for you.

Why a strike? We think this is the wrong question. Why continue on as normal? It is the normal, everyday life that has us paralyzed. The reason things have been allowed to get so bad is because we haven’t found the collective power to resist those in authority. Nothing will change unless we learn how to stop the everyday life they control, to call their power into question through finding our own, and to take back the conversation from the crappy options they’ve forced on us. So for one day, on May 2, let’s do it. Let’s stop the machine, look at one another, and ask how we get out of this mess together.


A riot isn’t what we have in mind, and we’re not sure exactly what the graffiti writers were thinking. Maybe they were just trying to get your attention. If so, we hope it worked.

With love, May 2 Strike Committee

Contact us at [email protected].