Walking to class today I saw just under 20 different clipboard-wielding groups soliciting students for signatures. Yesterday there were five.
They wanted signatures for legislation that they said would support causes like rent reform and environmental issues. I just wanted to go to class.
I wouldn’t take offense to this if it wasn’t for the sheer persistence of some of these people. It doesn’t matter if you’re hurrying along, if you didn’t make eye contact, if you’re wearing headphones or even if you’ve already politely declined, they soldier on.
Although many are benign and polite, even offering voter registration, which is a fantastic thing, a few were aggressively unpleasant.
One said about a coworker of mine when she ignored him, “I guess this bitch can’t hear.”
I get that we can’t simply eject political activists from campus, but I’d be much more receptive to someone’s message and would be more likely to read up on a law if I didn’t have to scurry around like prey to avoid someone.
They have taken root at almost every major thoroughfare on campus. The majority have clustered around the Go Beach sign, but several were haunting the stairs between upper and lower campus, and one even set up shop at CSULB’s famous The Gap, violating our holiest of sites.
This is a job for many of these people. They are paid by the signature, even more in an election year. Although no one would say exactly how much they were paid, their being so numerous suggests that the pay is good this year.
A democracy is only as strong as its populace is informed, and everyone should take an active role in the legislative process. There are many ways to do this, but maybe the worst is to approach students with all the grace and tact of a Hollywood Boulevard Spider-Man photobombing a tourist and demanding to be paid for it.
Few of these workers hand out political literature, nothing to really inform me. It’s only the hard sell.
I’m not signing something that nebulously supports whales at the behest of some guy in a sweat-stained Greenpeace hat, even though I am pro-sealife.
Second-year psychology major Michael Ukattah signed a petition and when asked about it he said, “Probably irresponsibly I signed it just to help the guys out.”
Ukattah was certainly not alone in this as none of the students I saw signing petitions asked any questions.
I get wanting to be politically active and socially conscious, or even just wanting to help someone out who has to stand in the sun all day trying to get people to sign a piece of paper, but by signing these papers is making harassment of students a lucrative business.
And although the majority of people seeking petitions have been courteous, the few that are belligerent make it so that the only way I can get to class is by ignoring people accosting me about vague political causes.
I’ve been reduced to sneaking through back alleys in hopes of avoiding them. Seeing parts of campus I never would have is the small silver lining.
Hopefully, in the coming days and weeks, the numbers and ferocity of the clipboard-wielders will abate, but until then I will be walking with my head down and my headphones blaring.