March 31, 2003

'Many Voices' speak on war with Iraq

By Eric Rangus

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 as moderators.

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 Center.

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.