A Look at Chancellor Birgeneau

A couple of comments on the emails that Chancellor Birgeneau sent out.

First, the length of each message. Whoever wrote those emails knew a thing about people’s attention spans. The great drawback of many activist emails is the way they pack in tons of important information, until the reader is on overload and misses important details.
Second, the sterility of the language. Whoever wrote those emails wrote them dispassionately, as if writing about facts. The idea is to make the emails sound, well, factual. “A few campus members may have found themselves in conflict with law enforcement officers (who)… did very well.” How different would the email sound if we rewrote it to say “Campus administration sent police officers to deal with members of the campus community. There are reports that the officers threatened and hit students with batons.”?
Third, the choice of individual words. Whoever wrote those emails very subtly paints the people inside and outside of the Hall as two different camps: the campus police and administrators working to protect the campus and the rights of faculty and students to teach and be taught; the protestors as misguided and disruptive; illegal but understandable.
The police and campus administration are: working to resolve, striving to end the occupation, reaching out, encouraging the protestors, and diffusing. In everything they do, they are working on the side of the faculty and students outside Wheeler Hall. The faculty and students are addressed as passive, and told to wait for instruction, as if the protesters have no support outside. The faculty and staff are: asked to remain, advised to leave, affected contacted, and unable to attend. Compare this with the protestors who are: demanding, taking over, and trespassing.

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