On a campus often criticized for its political apathy, a sizeable crowd of some fifteen hundred Emory students, faculty, and administrators turned out for “Classroom on the Quad” March 26, an all-University event planned in response to the war in Iraq.

Titled “U.S. and Iraq: Many Voices,” the two-hour program was neither peace protest nor war rally, but a staged opportunity for a diverse range of views to be aired. The day’s twenty-five speakers hit on topics from the importance of humantarian aid to the political necessity of liberating the Iraqi people.

Although the balance tipped toward anti-war sentiment, there were a number of arguments in favor of the conflict.

“The removal of the Hussein regime in Iraq will reestablish a healthy international respect for the American military power and presence,” declared College Republican Edward Thayer. “We allowed this to rot in the 1990s and have paid a dear price for it.”

A veteran of the war in Vietnam, Tariq Shakoor of Career Services earned applause when he wondered how many of those who favor action in Iraq would also favor reinstating the draft. “The [Bush] administration has created a climate of divisiveness based on false patriotism, led by a mindset of arrogant self-righteousness,” Shakoor said.

University President William M. Chace said, “We remind ourselves where we are, at a University–a special place reserved for thinking. Hence I encourage you all–all of you, no matter what you believe with respect to the invasion of Iraq–to think, as hard as you have ever thought about anything, about the world as it has changed in the last six days.”

Several student speakers issued passionate pleas for action–any action–on the part of their classmates. “Emory is no doubt a place of brilliance and innovation,” said Meg Rithmire of the student Foreign Policy Exchange, “but face-to-face dialogue has subsided to electronic activism.”

But onlooker Michael Beckley, a junior from San Francisco, appeared heartened as he gazed out over the crowd.

“This is fantastic, I’m really surprised,” he said. “This is usually such a non-activist campus. I just hope it won’t stop here.”–P.P.P.



© 2003 Emory University