Middle East studies in the News
Demonstrators protest U.S. policy domestically and abroad
by Anthony Ha
In the campus' first major antiwar demonstration this academic year, community members gathered in White Plaza for "Books Not Bombs II," a smaller version of last year's student strike. An hour of cheers and speeches — most of them focused on criticizing the foreign and domestic policies of President George W. Bush — was followed by a march to Hoover Tower and alternative classes led by Stanford faculty and scholars.
"This is about holding Bush accountable," said demonstration organizer Sofia Lee, a senior. "I mean, he's trying to feed us the idea that this federal marriage amendment is the central issue of this election. That's not what this election is about. It's about all the people who have died in Iraq. It's about remembering the 2000 election and all the Florida voters who got disenfranchised."
Organizers emphasized that one of the event's main goals was simply to remind students of what they describe as the injustices of the past two years — a theme driven home at a poetry reading during the candlelight vigil, which featured chants of "We refuse to forget."
The rally opened with performances by the Stanford Mariachi Band and spoken-word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Psychology Prof. Philip Zimbardo gave a speech depicting the Bush administration as waging a campaign of fear against U.S. citizens and using the threat of terrorism to push through the legislation that it wants.
When Stanford janitor Doroteo García spoke to the crowd, Lee translated his words from Spanish. García argued that the war in Iraq has harmed the lives of local workers.
"Last year, we were negotiated a new contract, and the big companies used the pretext of hard economic times
because of the war to prevent us from getting a raise," Garcia said. "We know that while social services and health care are being cut at home, the money is being used to kill people in foreign countries."
Alumnus Kuusela Hilo, Class of 2003, gave a speech describing her work for the Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines; she attributed the misery in that country to U.S. imperialism.
Citing an earlier successful campaign by Stanford students to convince the University to divest from Coca Cola because of its support for the apartheid government in South Africa, Hilo said, "I got the hell out of here last year, but I'm back to remind you that Stanford students have a legacy of protecting and liberating people."
TK Linda Tran, the event's MC, ended the rally with a denunciation of Stanford's Hoover Institution, and the involvement of Hoover Fellows in planning Bush's foreign policy. Many of the demonstrators marched to Hoover Tower, where they gathered in a circle and shouted chants such as, "Whose war? Hoover's war!"
TK Hai Binh Nguyen urged the demonstrators on, shouting into a bullhorn, "Say it loud! They gotta hear you upstairs!"
While many passersby simply stared at the marching crowd, a Marguerite driving waved and yelled, "Hey! No more war!"
The march was followed by a set of alternative classes taught in the Main Quad; each instructor sat in one of the planters and spoke in soft, conversational voices to demonstrators. Faculty teaching alternative lessons included TK
History Prof. Joel Beinin gave a lecture on the dispute over Middle East Studies, particularly on recent conservative characterization of academia being dominated by leftist, pro-Palestine radicals. Beinin warned against upcoming legislation giving the federal government greater power over the research and publications of Middle East scholars, arguing that it was only the first step in a larger campaign of McCarthyism.
"There's a big crowd of folks out there spending a lot of energy policing what people think, write and say about the Middle East," he said.
The evening concluded with a candlelight vigil in front of El Centro Chicano. During the vigil, Elena Larssen, campus minister for the United Campus Christian Ministry, spoke to students and urged them to remain hopeful in their activism.
"There's a lot of ways to keep going," she said. "One of the ways is anger. Anger, properly channeled, can do amazing things. But it's a hard way to live your life."
Religious Studies Prof. Thomas Sheehan spoke briefly to the crowd, telling students that their activism filled him with hope.
"The whole purpose of your time at a university is not just to understand and interpret the world, but also to radically change it," he said.
Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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