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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Today marks the eighth day that the Students for a Democratic Society have been on a hunger strike to convince UF President Bernie Machen that the university should make its investment portfolio transparent.

In its latest quest for socially responsible investment, the SDS has disintegrated any possibility of reasoned debate with the administration on the issue for a number of reasons.

First, while we understand that an open review of where our university places its billions is something more than 80 percent of students who voted in the spring election would like to see, we can't possibly understand why the SDS would choose to alienate the masses with their extreme tactics. The majority of the student body cannot identify with a small sect of students who choose not to nourish themselves especially right before final exams. To the reasonable among us, it's just absolutely ridiculous and woefully ineffective.

For those who remember the SDS protests of the past - calling for the firing of the University Police officers involved in the Taser debacle and then the short-lived "study-in" that was supposed to encourage Machen to speak with them - it's hard to view this latest attention scam as anything other than a cheap stunt.

Hunger strikes have been historically significant, as was the case when Mahatma Gandhi began such a strike to protest the British rule of India. Political prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have also used hunger strikes to protest what some believed to be their unfair imprisonment.

With the knowledge of these monumental causes, the SDS approach pales in comparison and cheapens the value of what it means to be on a hunger strike. It is hard to sympathize with the SDS strikers that have used the powerful tactic to essentially throw a temper tantrum rather than initiate real change.

It is also hard for us to take them seriously.

We're not buying that the SDS has no other choice but to not eat, as one protester stated. In fact, they have chosen the easy way out.

It is much harder to disrupt your schedule and adamantly protest outside Tigert every day, holding signs and garnering support for your cause from students outside your immediate social circle. The "hunger strikers" are still going about their daily lives, minus three meals a day. The institution of a real change would require actively lobbying Student Government to get behind the protests, or even continuing to sit in Machen's office every day to remind him of the cause. We're guessing this hunger strike is destined to go the way of other SDS demonstrations: failure.

And so it seems to us that the real reason the SDS strikers have chosen not to eat is to attract more attention to themselves rather than the issue at hand. Some have passed out in class. Even the debate over whether drinking fruit juice counts as a hunger strike has distracted from the purpose of the protest.

Their self-imposed fervor about the strike has diverted attention away from the issue and has placed their own members into the spotlight. If their goal is to highlight the need for socially responsible investing, why have they chosen to continuously discuss the strike instead of the reason for it? This sort of look-at-me-I'm-not-eating attitude they have adopted does nothing to advance their cause. The result? The strike has been easily dismissed - at least by us.

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