Student Activism

OCC Political Action Group

During the fall semester of 2002, the Student Political Action/Awareness group was formed by a handful of students at Onondaga Community College (OCC). We focused on issues such as the School of the Americas. Students participated quite well, and in these days of witch-hunts for terrorists, it was eye-opening for many to see the connections between US trained terrorism and its root causes in global consumer culture.
This semester the focus has been on anti-war work. The Student Political Action/Awareness group has fought the growth of military recruitment in schools. Working with the American Friends Service Committee and the CNY chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, we have collected enough knowledge to table events and participate in the Iraq teach-in put on by the OCC faculty. We created t-shirts that describe the military’s transgressions, and wear them whenever recruiters come to OCC. Our goal is to make students aware of other viable financial and career options besides the military, and educate students as to why the US military is perhaps the most dangerous threat to peace and democracy worldwide.
—Daniel Freshman

Getting an Education in Democracy at SUNY-Oswego

On Tuesday, March 4, SUNY-Oswego fired math professor, Osameh Al-Wahaidy, just a few days after publicly announcing that his employment status would not be affected by federal charges that he had helped transmit funds to Iraq. Because of the administration’s abrupt reversal and failure to offer an explanation as well as the college newspaper’s irresponsible reporting—interlacing details of the government’s charges with students’ remarks about Al-Wahaidy’s teaching—the campus was initially a buzz with disturbing speculation.

To the credit of the college community, I have heard continuous dismay about these rumors. Across campus, students and faculty stopped one another again and again to share concern that the university might be abandoning the principle that in US courts of law we are all presumed innocent until proven guilty. An overwhelming number of letters to the editor of the college paper indicate that most of the community reject media-orchestrated trials.

Against this backdrop, students walked out of classrooms at 11 am on Wednesday, March 5, joining a national campaign sponsored by the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and People Opposing War. Ten Oswego High School students simultaneously walked out and marched a mile onto campus, where they were met by more than 300 people gathered in the Hewitt Union Ballroom. The three hour rally featured speakers, singers and poets. We estimate that 450 attended the rally in the course of the afternoon.
People Opposing War distributed 90 “Democracy Now” CDs to launch a campaign to bring the program to WRVO. Students also distributed information about the Patriot Act I and II, along with information on Congressional bills designed to harness the President. Additionally, as part of the Books Not Bombs rally, we raised $175 with which to donate books to the Oswego City library. The afternoon before the rally, River’s End Bookstore generously offered to match donations up to $250, so we will be accepting donations until April first. We plan to add to the city library’s peace and justice collection.

The Monday after the rally, the Faculty Assembly passed a resolution against the war. Both the Faculty Assembly and the Student Association Senate also passed resolutions requesting an explanation from the administration on the firing of Professor Al-Wahaidy. That President Stanley might be under a federal “gag order” looms likely enough that we are urging the campus community to write her letters requesting an explanation.

Meanwhile, we coordinated with members of the Oswego community to join the global vigil on Sunday, March 16, and thirty people lined Washington Blvd. calling for peace and justice. We came together again in downtown Oswego on March 20, the day the major US bombing in Iraq began.

People Opposing War can be contacted at or at 312-2611.
— Maureen Curtin

Youth Empowerment for Peace

Youth Empowerment for Peace (YEP) was organized by a group of youth in the early winter of 2002, and they meet every week at the Syracuse Peace Council. YEP has thus far kept its main focus on the war in Iraq, and has organized two educational forums to educate youth on the situation in the Middle East. Their first event focused solely on Iraq’s history and current situation, while the second also included general misconceptions on Islam, and was co-sponsored by the American Muslim Council (AMC).
YEP hopes to move forward and organize different types of youth-targeted activities, and to empower this generation’s youth by education. In the future they are planning to organize a photo-text project concerning the horrors of war, and are looking to organize events around topics such as Iraq and Palestine.

To get in touch you can call the Peace Council at 472-5478. Their meetings are every Tuesday at the Peace Council from 4-5pm.
—Tina Musa

SU’s Alternative Education Program*

On March 5, at Syracuse University, students, professors and community members joined the national day of student anti-war actions by sponsoring a day of alternative education. The goal was to promote critical thinking and debate on US policy on Iraq. According to organizer and student Waverly de Bruijn, “At times like these, business as usual should stop while we examine the magnitude of our country’s offensive maneuvers.”

Many professors dedicated class time to discussion of the issue, with students expressing a diversity of opinions and concerns. A number of larger, campus-wide events were planned as well. At noon, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. filled the air as one of his many anti-war speeches from the Viet Nam era was replayed in Sims Hall. Shortly after, enthusiastic students gathered for a peace rally on the quad that included chants, drumming, and song, and closed with people lying on the ground to form a human peace symbol. The rally was to be immediately followed by a film viewing and panel presentation in Hendricks Chapel. A number of African American student organizers chose to delay the start of the film, challenging the campus community to more adequately address the deep-rooted connections between war and racism, as well as to confront issues of racism within the peace movement and organizing efforts. A spontaneous discussion ensued during which many crucial concerns were raised.

The scheduled panel did take place later in the day. Participants focused on the sexist and racist aspects of militarism and war, connections between militarism and specific SU academic programs, such as the National Security Studies Program, and the relationship between media and war, including the Military Motion Media Studies program being offered at the Newhouse School of Communications. The day’s events closed with a presentation by local community organizer and writer Brian Dominick, who facilitated a discussion of US foreign policy and alternatives to war on Iraq.

For many students and faculty members, this was just one of several recent events organized to address the US drive to war against Iraq. On Wednesday, March 26, the week after bombing officially began, another panel discussion was held as well as a rally for peace.

*This article was summarized from a longer piece written by Thor Ritz for the Blueprint, a Syracuse University student newspaper.

Upstate Medical University

The American Medical Students Association at SUNY Upstate Medical University, in conjunction with other groups, sponsored a talk recently by Dr. Richard Garfield. Dr. Garfield’s talk was titled “Health and Well Being in Iraq — The Impact of International Conflict.” He is the director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for International Development in Advanced Practice at Columbia University.

For more information contact Dan at <>
—Dan Lefebvre

Le Moyne College

Recently within the Le Moyne community there have been efforts to raise awareness of peace and social justice, specifically pertaining to the current Iraq conflict. A group of us are involved in a Peace Campus initiative whose primary goal is to promote peace by speaking out against the possibility of preemptive attacks on the Iraqi government. We have written a Declaration stating the reasons why Le Moyne College should be declared a peace campus; we have also held an open forum to share the Declaration with the community, and have been working diligently to get petitions signed.

Another very important goal is to promote discussion of this issue that will undeniably affect our generation. Apathy surrounding issues like this is potentially destructive. We were excited to witness students waking up. While opinions certainly differ on campus, it is reassuring to know that people are beginning to come to informed, educated opinions.

We of the Peace Campus Initiative challenge the Le Moyne Community, and the community at large, to raise their understanding and awareness of the issues at hand. We welcome questions and promote discussion. If you would like to raise questions or get more information about our project, please contact us at:
—Elizabeth Schmidt