February 16, 2020
Having UNE students take a knee during the national anthem before a sports event could cause quite an uproar on and off campus, as I’m sure you can imagine. People always talk about being able to speak our mind and say what we believe in but how would a student voicing their opinion affect the University. I believe the school should be somewhere that students feel they can voice their opinions and be heard, but at what point is the line drawn for how they speak their mind and who gets to draw the line. Is protesting while in UNE uniform too far? By a UNE student protesting in this type of way, we could see many issues amongst the University. A protest could put many things at risk like enrollment and operating budgets. One thing that could be affected would be how people’s opinion or view of the school may change. If the reputation of the school changes based on one of these protests it can pull us into bigger problems. UNE is a tuition driven school, this means that the schools money comes from tuition. If the reputation of the school is going downhill parents may not want to send their child here, or a student might not consider this as a choice if it has a bad reputation. With lower enrollment comes less money causing budget issues for the school meaning there could be very serious consequences in the future, money wise, which could lead to an overall downfall.
Protests in sports, such as the NFL, are becoming more popular. Athletes are using their platforms to speak out and at games they are protesting with acts like kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Looking at past protests, it is obvious that they don’t often get away without it being publicized. They also may end up taking a turn such as peaceful protests becoming not so peaceful. There are so many problems that could quite possibly arise if this happened at our university. To start, there are so many different people who would be involved. Students, parents, faculty, potential future students and their parents, coaches, community members, police, and many other people who may hear about this through publications in the paper, news, social media, etc. Social media plays a big role in these situations, especially with younger generations. So many people use some sort of social media and it is a very easy method of getting stuff out fast. If a student at UNE was to post about an issue on social media, then many people would hear about it. It may start with other students on campus hearing about it and talking/spreading news about it. Then it may reach its way to friends back home of students here. This may get people in new areas talking about it. What if those friends back home were considering UNE as a place to continue their education and after hearing this, they choose not to go here anymore, this possibly could be one of the statistics that show lower enrollment. Many pro athletes use their social media platforms to speak out about problems and protests. Athletes Brittney Griner and Layshia Clarendon spoke out about the Texas bill that would end with the result of transgender athletes not being protected while using the bathroom or any other changing area. They wanted to protest this bill because they don’t agree with it and they are trying to stand up for what they believe in. They said that “we feel it is our moral duty to use the platform we have been given to speak out” (Griner, Clarendon, 2). We now see how social media can play two different roles in these situations. It can be used to actively protest something but also to spread word about a protest whether it was peaceful or not.
Issues and Positions:
We’ve seen some of these issues in professional sports but what would we do if this happened at UNE. Do athletes here have the right to protest while representing the university? Some would say yes. One NFL fan named David Posner agrees with athletes protesting and he is happy that these athletes will stand for something more than themselves. Posner states that he is “proud of the players for standing up (or kneeling, or linking arms) for something bigger than themselves, and for using their fame and visibility to fight injustice and to give a voice to those who have none.” (Fan Anthem Reactions pt two, 2) I agree with this statement because I think it is good that they use their fame to talk about problems and use the platforms to reach new people. Now how would the UNE community react to this. If students are talking about issues at UNE on social media, that is a chance for it to possibly spread fast and create problems. On the other hand, there are many people who do not think athletes should be protesting. They say that “Sports are supposed to be about competition (and beer!), entertainment (and beer!) and a few hours of being occupied by something else besides how polarized we all are” (The Fans Who Say They’re Walking Away From the NFL, 9). This shows that people do not like issues being drawn into sports. It shows that this is their get away and that they do not want it interrupted.
We need to think about how we could solve this problem if this was to happen in the future. One of the first major issues would be the academic reputation of the school. If people are talking about UNE in a not so good way because of protests, then that could spread and cause many other issues. Having a bad reputation could lead to many bad things at the university. If people hear about what’s going on with protests here, some may decide they don’t want their children to go here or a student may decide on their own that they don’t want to come. If this is the case and less and less students come here then we would be losing money. Like I said before, UNE is a tuition driven school so we rely on the money from student tuition.
I think there are many different things that we as a university could do to prevent these things and possibly have a plan of what to do in the case of one of these protests. Having some type of disciplinary action is very important. If someone does something wrong but they are not being held responsible then they may think that it is okay to do or that they can do it again. I believe that we should create a policy at UNE that does not allow students to protest. I think that this should be done because if the school isn’t worrying about dealing with a protest then we can focus on more important ideas. If this was to happen and we create a policy where protests are not allowed, I think we should have an alternative way for students to express their thoughts towards what they would protest. Perhaps one alternative would be to address the problem with the president of the university. If the situation/issue seems like it needs to be dealt with, talked about, or if it is something students feel very strongly for, then steps can be taken with those individuals and the president. If that is not the case and it is completely irrelevant or if it does not need to be addressed, then we can put it behind us and move on. If a protest does occur, then the students involved should face disciplinary action, such as sitting out in athletics. I think avoiding protests to start would be in the best interest of the school. Without protests we would not have to worry about dealing with the aftermath such as a reputation. A bad reputation of any sort for UNE is when we could get into some enrollment issues, less students enrolling, more students withdrawing or transfering. Avoiding protests could avoid many larger issues at The University of New England.
Sports Illustrated Staff.“The Fans Who Say They’re Walking Away From the NFL.” Sports Illustrated, September 27, 2017.
Sports Illustrated Staff.“Fan Anthem Reactions Part 2: We’ll Continue to Watch the NFL and Here’s Why.” Sports Illustrated, September 28, 2017.