What if they held a rally and nobody came?

On Tuesday, April 5, Daily Tar Heel published an article about a planned rally today to protest “massive budget cuts” to the UNC budget. The DTH reported that

An “SOS — Save Our System” rally will take place Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. in Halifax Mall in Raleigh. The event will be hosted by the UNC-system Association of Student Governments. … more than 500 students, faculty and staff members will be attending the rally.

For those of you unfamiliar with the UNC Association of Student Governments, they are the fledgling politicos that the UNC system allows to bilk their fellow students systemwide via student fees, on the hope that the group will put all that money to good uses and that they will become more effective because of it. (Just like politicians in the real world! *kaff! kaff!*)

There were some objectives back then in 2002 that the UNC ASG was ineffective and that the new student fee wouldn’t change the fact, and not coincidentally, in February 2005 a UNC-Chapel Hill student opined in the DTH (also see note, below) that the UNC ASG was “the biggest waste of student money imaginable” and that the group was “spending the majority of its budget on administrative fat.” (Just like politicians in the real world! *kaff! kaff!*)

Nevertheless, with budget cuts looming (they always loom), the subsidized fledgling politicos garnered their forces and put together a rally. Speakers included outgoing UNC System President Molly C. Broad; Dan Gerlach, senior policy advisor for fiscal affairs to N.C. Gov. Mike Easley; current UNC ASG president Amanda Devore and a couple of others. They called it the rally to”Save Our System” — SOS! — and again, they promised to bring “more than 500 students, faculty and staff members.”

Sounded good to me, so I grabbed my camera and went. I got to Halifax Mall a few minutes before the event’s opening at 11 o’clock. It took me a while to spot the event, however — I couldn’t tell the protesters from the ordinary passers-by. Just in case, I decided to walk through the legislative building to the other side to double-check that the rally’s location hadn’t changed to in front of the General Assembly or on the mall between it and the State Capitol Building. Only a handful of museum spectators and a hot-dog vendor could be seen.

So I returned to Halifax Mall. As it was now shortly after 11:00 and the rally had already started, I decided to take a panoramic view of the entire rally. So I walked to near the back of the mall and took a shot of the scene:

This should help readers distinguish between the rally and the passers-by:

Now, Winston-Salem State University sent its marching band and flag corps to accompany the rally. I have to say, WSSU has a good-sounding band. Had the protesters been chanting, the band would have easily drowned them out. That’s because the band came in two buses (wonder how much that cost the system that needs money so much?) — therefore they had at least three times as many people as the rally itself, including the reporters and people stopping to ask, “What is this all about; do you know? What about you?” It was hard for me to tell, because I could be off by one or two, but I think there were more people attending the rally than there were reporters.

Here is the WSSU marching band joining the rally to “Save Our System” — SOS!:

Here is a panoramic view of the rally once the band joined it:

This should help readers distinguish between the rally, the band and the passers-by:

After this, I decided to take a couple of close-up shots of the rally. Here are three of them. (Readers should be able to distinguish between rally-goers and passers-by at this range.)

I confess I didn’t hang around long enough to hear all the speakers. I decided that if the other 480 promised attendees weren’t interested, why waste my time with them.

Interestingly enough, however, all afternoon I’ve heard several reports on WPTF 680 AM news about the rally. That’s the beauty of radio — no pictures. Listeners might think something actually happened.


Also not coincidentally, a couple of days after the critical DTH op-ed about the UNC ASG, the DTH carried the following report about the organization’s activities (emphasis added):

After two days of meetings with lawmakers and policy advocates, 49 delegates from the UNC Association of Student Governments will return to North Carolina …. This was the association’s first large-scale lobbying trip to Washington, although Jonathan Ducote, ASG director of federal relations and former ASG president, made periodic trips to the area during the academic year.

Treating themselves to hobnobbing jaunts to D.C. — and having a sinecure waiting you once you get out of school, and funded by all your former peers — now there’s a good way to deflect criticism that your organization is the “biggest waste of student money imaginable”!