Saturday, April 5, 2003

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)


STUDENTS AND THE WAR: Two stories on student attitudes and activism regarding the war with Iraq. The New York Times reports a yawning gulf between professors and students on this issue:

"Across the country, the war is disclosing role reversals, between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prowar groups have sprung up at Brandeis and Yale and on other campuses. One group at Columbia, where last week an antiwar professor rhetorically called for 'a million Mogadishus,' is campaigning for the return of R.O.T.C. to Morningside Heights.

Even in antiwar bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown. At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, 'Shut it down!' under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco, and the crowd was grayer.

All this dismays many professors.

'We used to like to offend people,' Martha Saxton, a professor of women's studies at Amherst, said as she discussed the faculty protest with students this week. 'We loved being bad, in the sense that we were making a statement. Why is there no joy now?'

Certainly not all students are pro-war or all faculty anti. But 'there's a much higher percentage of liberal professors than there are liberal students,' said Ben Falby, the student who organized the protest at Amherst only to find that it had more professors than students.

This Chicago Tribune piece makes similar points:

"Since school began last fall at the University of Chicago, Dan Lichtenstein-Boris has carved out time to oppose the war in Iraq, drafting leaflets, creating film and speakers series and setting up a round-the-clock vigil in the center of campus.

But getting fellow students to join in a big rally and make a larger point since the war began has been difficult.

'I think things are pretty quiet,' Lichtenstein-Boris, 21, a sophomore, said in frustration. 'With all we've done, how is a lecture or film series going to help? It's kind of a soft way of going about things when people are dying.'"

What explains this? The Tribune suggests student apathy, but that's not it -- the paper also observes: "While polls show most high school and college students don't go to rallies or marches, they volunteer more than preceding generations, with 61 percent of college students volunteering, according to a study last October by the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University."

The three other suggestions that are proffered are the absence of a draft, the maturation of these students in more conservative times, and the plethora of other causes out there. Take a look and judge for yourself.

The one amusing part of the Times piece is the conviction from both pro-war and anti-war voices on campus that they are being vaguely persecuted:

"'It's a lonely place to be an antiwar protester on the Amherst campus,' said Beatriz Wallace, a junior. In the dining hall, students have set out baskets of ribbons, some yellow, some red, white and blue.

Prowar students say they feel just as alienated. 'The faculty, and events, has a chilling effect on discussions for the prowar side,' said David Chen, a sophomore."

UPDATE: This Newsday article on the same phenomenon notes another pattern:

"Jonathan Buchsbaum, who has been teaching media studies at Queens College for 25 years, said these days students there are motivated by issues like the poor economy and the elimination of school programs.

'I don't see as many students getting involved, in terms of war,' Buchsbaum said.

While the Brooklyn and Queens college students might be too preoccupied with bread-and-butter matters to take to the streets, those at big private colleges in Manhattan have the time and inclination to publicly express their views, faculty members say.

'We're getting students to understand that they are in a privileged position and to use that position to understand what is going on in the world,' said Francesca Fiorentini, 19, a sophomore at New York University and member of the NYU Peace Coalition."

posted by Dan on 04.05.03 at 01:44 PM