The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Iraqi conflict protests lack student support

Campus activism limited to faculty participation despite procedures available

Last week, about 2,000 University of Texas students walked out of class and marched through the streets of Austin to protest a possible American attack on Iraq. At the University of Virginia, nine students fell to the ground as if killed in battle as part of a silent anti-war march. Students at Kent State University have organized a 48-hour hunger strike, in objection to a possible war with Iraq.

But at SMU life continues as normal with little indication that a controversial war looms.

The procedures for peaceful protests and demonstrations are in place. The question is: Where are the students?

There have been no formal requests for protests submitted by students, according to Arlene Manthey, director of the Student Activities Center.

“Most students are apathetic to world events,” sophomore business and broadcast journalism major Megan Tevrizian said. “Everyone seems pretty focused on their own lives.”

Jim Caswell, vice president of student affairs, agreed with Tevrizian that the lack of protests indicates a lack of student interest.

The SMU student handbook includes the procedures for protests and demonstrations. The university is concerned only with time, place and manner, he said.

“It is important that a protest is conducted in a manner that is respectful to the university community,” said Caswell.

Arely Briones, first-year religious studies and English major, said most students are not interested in the possible war with Iraq because they are not informed about it and its consequences.

But other students say a lack of information isn’t the problem.

“I’m concerned about our country’s situation, but I don’t feel like there is much I can do to change anything,” sophomore marketing major Kelsey Reid said.

At a peace forum last week several faculty members expressed their opposition to a possible war with Iraq. But it was the faculty who initiated the forum, not students. At the gathering, students listened-none spoke.

President R. Gerald Turner said he supports the right of students to speak out against the war.

“A real university will have people with different opinions,” he said. “Our basic concern is that the university community has the right to show their beliefs.”

The Association of American Universities urged institutions to remain committed to academic freedom while the nation prepares for war and defends itself from terrorist in a statement issued at the end of January.

President Turner said he is confident SMU is prepared to protect students. The university must support a delicate balance that maintains students’ freedom to express dissent while upholding its responsibility to keep a safe campus, he said.

“With any issue, if you get criticism from both sides, you are probably doing something right,” President Turner said.

Some students said professors fail to address the war issue in the classroom.

“Many faculty members are so concerned with being biased they aren’t bringing it up in class,” Briones said.

Dennis Cordell, a professor at SMU and a higher education expert, said it is the responsibility of the faculty to present information about issues of national and international concern to help students arrive at these beliefs and opinions.

“Students tend to arrive at a university often with ideas developed by their parents and environment,” he said.

Faculty must strive to create an environment to foster the discussion of all opinions, while not pushing their own, Cordell said.

Others said professors have little to do with it, because students are only concerned with events that directly affect them.

“People live in a bubble, and I’m guilty,” Katie Robinson, a sophomore film major said. “It’s just hard not to.”

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