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Campus debates conflict

Photo
SUSIE LEMONT/Arizona Daily Wildcat
An anti-war rally on campus Jan. 18, 2003 drew community protesters to the UA Mall and Old Main. As war with Iraq looms, UA has seen more political activism.
By Aaron Mackey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 20, 2003

Gripping a sign that reads "No blood for oil," a UA student marches down East Speedway Boulevard amidst crowds of activists.

Chanting anti-war slogans, the student urges cars driving by to participate and honk their horn.

But rather than honking his horn, another student shakes his head in disagreement and drives away from the protest.

War protests are back as the debate over whether to go to war with Iraq intensifies on campus.

As more and more debates, lectures and rallies hit campus, students both for and against war agree that the ability to hear both sides of the situation is crucial.

"I think it's one of the most important rights that we have because that's what determines a free society," said Carrie Brown, president of the Alliance for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, a club on campus that advocates peaceful alternatives and solutions to war in the Middle East.

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Even though Scott Weller, president of UA College Republicans, will not march down a street with APJME or hold an anti-war sign, he said he does not war-monger either.

Weller said that even though he disagrees with those who protest the war, he recognizes their rights to do so.

"I support their right to exercise their First Amendment rights," said Weller, a political science senior.

It is these basic rights that allowed for a student debate to take place last week. While the debate was heated, both sides saw the importance of the opportunity to have such an exchange.

"This is a great way for people to become more informed," Weller said as he addressed the audience during the debate.

The success of the debate excited Brown, a Near Eastern studies graduate student, who was happy that the APJME-sponsored event sparked so much discussion among the students present.

"Creating discussion that is what universities are about. It's about students coming together and debating ideas," Brown said.

Throughout the evening, the debaters remained civil toward each other,

complimenting and speaking highly of their fellow panelists. It was not until nearly the end that the crowd began to get out of hand after one girl said she couldn't listen to the debate anymore and left the room.

APJME member and debate panelist Noah Haiduc-Dale thought that despite the outbursts by the crowd, the event went well.

"(The interruption) had the potential to harm the effectiveness of the debate, but I don't think it did," said Haiduc-Dale, a Near Eastern studies graduate student.

Weller was also a panelist on the debate, and while civil toward his opposition, he is far from agreeing with students who are against the war.

"I don't think (the protesters) are looking at the bigger picture," Weller said.

Avi Margolin, a political science freshman, agreed with Weller. Margolin believes that a war with Iraq is inevitable, and it is the appropriate route to take.

"It's certainly the correct thing to do. The world would be a better place if the Iraqi regime were out," he said.

Margolin is a member of the Arizona Israeli Alliance (AIA), a group that, while united in support of Israel, has several different opinions about how the crisis in Iraq should be solved.

AIA president Charles Givre said that the United States should not be going after Saddam Hussein.

"I think that there are far greater terrors than Saddam Hussein in the world," Givre said.

This sentiment was the reason that Givre joined over 2,000 protesters in a rally last month that began on the UA mall.

The march was coordinated by Tucson Peace Action Coalition (TPAC). TPAC also organized last weekend's gas station protests, which took place in conjunction with international peace demonstrations. The protests had over a million people turn out in dozens of cities around the world.

However, protests aren't new to the UA community. Students gathered more than 30 years ago to protest the Vietnam War. But some that lived during that time say that it would be impossible to compare the two.

"It's like comparing apples and oranges," said Ed Williams, UA Professor Emeritus of political science.

Williams believes that one major difference that separates Vietnam War protests from those being conducted today is the fact that students would not be as closely affected by a war with Iraq.

Williams remembers having concern for students being drafted. The fact that students could be drafted if they failed out of college "put professors in an agonized position," Williams said.

It is for this reason that Williams feels that students were more active in protesting during that time than they are now.

"Thirty-five years ago their (students') life was in jeopardy," Williams said.

However, according to Brown, protesters have taken on new roles since Vietnam. They give back to their community just by being active and raising awareness, Brown said. By coordinating events such as next week's teach-in, Brown hopes to educate people about both sides of the issues.

For Haiduc-Dale, the exchange of ideas and dialogue between opposing sides on any issue is not only enlightening, but it is also "the essence of living in a democracy."

As long as students are discussing the issue, there is hope that activism has accomplished its purpose, Haiduc-Dale said.

Weller echoed similar sentiments, concluding the debate by saying, "If nothing else, you were a little more enlightened."


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