The Continuing Appeal of Aldrich Hall

For us, especially after the events of last week and today, the existence of Aldrich Hall presents itself as a paradox.

We are told that there are no more Winter Palaces to storm, and to a large degree, this is true.  But we continue to find ourselves fixated on Aldrich Hall.  The sit-in last week found itself in the position of returning to Aldrich, and the supporters outside reenacted the storming of the Bastille.  This is not a fault of the movement, but rather an understanding that in our un-community, un-place, there is nothing else to be done besides attack Aldrich.  And indeed the administration does see Aldrich’s strategic importance–if it were not worth attacking, why would they take such great pains to shut down the building every time someone sneezes?

Aldrich is the central nervous system of the university apparatus, more so than the administration buildings anywhere else.  I mean, we have the Chancellor’s office, Financial Aid, the Registrar, Payroll, Undergraduate Dean, and 6 stories of essential functions.  Even the Academic Senate is moving into Aldrich in the Spring to further centralize administrative control.  This means that on our campus, there is nothing besides Aldrich to attack.

During the March 4 rally, we saw something unique.  With over a dozen police locked inside Aldrich, students decentralized their reproach of the university precisely by leaving the university itself.  It made sense in that instant that they needed to leave the campus to properly realize and attack it, rather than fight within the heart of the beast.  Even so, the protest returned to Aldrich Hall before fizzling out soon after.  This is no small coincidence: the fact that the storming of our own tsar’s palace actually demobilizes us perhaps signals that we’re taking the entirely wrong approach to thinking about resistance and space.

If attacking the enemy demobilizes us, what does this mean for us?  I won’t pretend to have an answer, but will suggest that we need to understand this crisis as something altogether different than the single-issue struggles we are used to finding, and therefore will require unimaginable tactics to succeed.

But it is hard to deny the appeal and importance of Aldrich as a target.  If the police are so ready to close the building, then Aldrich may serve as a metaphor for control of the campus.  So long as Chancellor Drake and Chief Henisey control Aldrich, no matter what goes down elsewhere on campus and in Irvine, they control students and the campus community.  If students can manage to take back Aldrich, then they can begin to destroy the oppressive structures that exist within the university.  But it will still take something else to construct something better.

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