BY RISHA INAGANTI
On-campus protests are one way in which students are able to ensure their voices are heard. Whether engaging with issues at the university or the national level, protests unite students of all backgrounds.
“Being on a college campus, we have such a unique opportunity to connect with so many different groups of people,” Fiona Eramo, senior president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action and co-planner of the “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally, said.
Despite the visibility of on-campus protests, there is an extensive planning process behind every successful protest that many students may be unfamiliar with.
When an impactful nationwide event happens, people around campus begin messaging each other. Every so often, they will decide to put their minds together and host a rally, in attempts of sharing their view on the news.
“When having a rally, you want it to happen as soon as possible,” Maddy Starling, first-year graduate student and former president of the College Democrats who helped plan protests such as “Bans Off Our Bodies,” the Kavanaugh rally and rallies surrounding sexual assault awareness related to Greek life, said. “With the way the media cycle works people only pay attention to things for so long so you want to be quick but that’s hard.”
At the university, to host a protest students first need to apply for a permit. An online form asks what space they would like to reserve, what message they would like to send, and how many people they expect to show up. For protests that can be considered controversial, they are instructed to reach out to the university police department, giving them around a week’s notice.
Once the date and time are finalized, “RSOs that are advocacy-based come together to help spread information on rallies,” Eramo said. “Sharing the information on Instagram and GroupMe is a great way to make people aware of what the plan is and ensure there’s a turn out.”
Prior to the actual rally, RSOs host events to create signs and create chants. But there’s more to think about than just that.
“Although a lot of the fun parts of protesting is holding signs and chanting, that doesn’t keep people’s attention,” Starling said. “There’s a lot of little details to worry about too.”
For the “Bans Off Our Bodies” protest, a Google form was set up for anyone who wanted to speak. This form allowed for people to share their personal stories in order to help prove the relevancy of the rally as well as ensure that every individual feels heard.
“It can sometimes be hard to comprehend and understand the severity of a nationwide issue. But it really is relevant to all of us,” Eramo said.
According to the protest organizers, the university has strict rules about rallies, stating that they must stay contained in a certain area and cannot use amplification to make their voice louder. As it is a college campus, they are not allowed to disrupt classes in any way. This can make things difficult for those running the protest as it puts pressure on those hosting the event to maintain order.
Aside from university restrictions, the protest planners must also deal with the stress of making sure all attendees stay safe. Constant reminders to stay hydrated and eat food are sent out. Additionally, they try to announce when a triggering subject may come up, in order to make sure everyone is comfortable.
“When I’m planning a protest, safety is the number one thing on my mind. I want everyone to feel safe and welcome,” Starling said.
Holding on-campus demonstrations is a way of shedding light on important topics and helping educate other students who might not know the depths of an issue. Through university protests, students have been able to influence news outlets and local government officials, in addition to other students. After past university rallies, viral Tiktoks and news articles have spread all across the nation.
“As long as people are showing up and people are enjoying the message and people feel like their voices are being heard, it’s a successful protest,” Starling said.