The Classroom on the Quad’s subtitle, “U.S.
& Iraq: Many Voices,” could not have been more apropos.
For two hours on Wednesday, March 26, more than two dozen faculty,
staff and students took to the stage in front of Pitts Theology
Library for five minutes each, trading viewpoints on the war in
Iraq—its justification, conduct, collateral effects and consequences.
The event, several months in the making, was cosponsored by the
University Senate’s Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Freedom and
Student Concerns and Student/Campus Life Staff/ Faculty Planning
Committee. Organizers Jim Grimsley and Bruce Knauft of Council,
Purvi Patel of College Council, Christopher Richardson of the Student
Government Association and Campus Life’s Donna Wong served
More than 1,500 faculty, staff and students attended and the gathered
crowd, either sitting in chairs in front of the stage or sprawled
on the Quad, never dipped below a thousand.
Generally COQ had an antiwar bent—a majority of the speakers
opposed military action in Iraq, and the audience, which followed
instructions to tone down its reactions, interrupted just three
speakers (Nathan McCall, Tariq Shakoor and
Devin Stewart, each of whom spoke against the invasion) with applause.
Still, when the organizers spoke of “multipartisanism,”
they meant it. Some of the COQ’s most passionate speakers,
students Edward Thayer and Daniel Hauck of College Republicans and
James Tarter of Students for War Against Terrorism, spoke staunchly
in favor of the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion.
Pro-administration viewpoints were not limited to students. Frank
Lechner, associate professor of sociology, and Bob Bartlett, associate
professor of political science, also backed military action to take
out Saddam Hussein.
Not all of the speakers discussed Iraq directly. Bobbi Patterson,
senior lecturer in religion, didn’t even mention the country
in her presentation, “Hearing in Equanimity: Deciding Your
Path.” Instead, she made a call for people to reflect on the
feelings of inadequacy that often are brought on by guilt.
Laurie Patton, associate professor and chair of religion, and Aimee
Webb, a graduate student in nutrition and health sciences, spoke
of the humanitarian costs of war in the regions—Patton on
the responsibility of both sides to provide clean water for Iraqi
civilians and Webb on the impact of the war on Iraqi children.
If audience reaction is any gauge of a speaker’s effectiveness,
the presenters who made the most impact were McCall, visiting lecturer
in journalism; Stewart, associate professor and chair of Middle
Eastern and South Asian studies; and Shakoor, director of the Career
McCall spoke of America’s “selective amnesia”
that discourages self-criticism. Stewart, who was the final speaker
before President Bill Chace wrapped up the event, was one of the
few speakers to use humor in his delivery.
Shakoor, a Vietnam veteran, passionately described his opposition
to that war—yet he agreed to fight, carrying on a military
tradition in his family dating to the Civil War.