Representatives of various student groups gathered Wednesday night to participate in the first of an ongoing series of events about the war in Iraq.
The event, tentatively entitled the “United We Stand Campaign,” aims to establish a dialogue on campus about the war. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Ron Stump hosted the meeting and said that he would like the program to be a forum for debate, dialogue and educational presentations.
“How do we interpret the war, and how do we perceive it?” Stump asked.
Participants struggled with the necessity to limit the discussion to the war in Iraq.
“Everything we talk about can be traced back to what is going on here,” said Zachary Eichmeyer, a senior engineering major and member of 180-11.
“When you say `the war in Iraq`, it’s inclusive of a lot of things,” said John Henderson of the Greek Liaison’s Office. Stump agreed that the war in Iraq is related to many of the current socio-economic issues in the United States.
Participants were also concerned about the university’s policy of ‘neutrality’ and asked Stump to clarify the policy.
“The Board [of Regents] took a stance, maybe 20 years ago, that they would not come out in favor of or against major issues like apartheid or the war in Iraq.” Stump said. He also said that the policy does not restrict anyone’s ability to discuss such issues in a campus setting.
Many stressed that any discussion of the war in Iraq is impossible without an understanding of Iraqi and Islamic culture.
“We need to understand the history and the culture of the people of Iraq before we can understand what’s going on right now,” said Medhat Ahmed, president of the Muslim Students’ Association and a member of the Black Student Alliance.
“If we’re going to be discussing anything involving Islam, we need professors of the history of the Middle East as mediators,” said Joseph Ayoub, a sophomore political science major.
Mary Kate Schroeder, of Episcopal Ministries to CU Boulder, stressed what she said was a need to discuss the war in a “safe, honorable and dignified way.”
“What’s discussion? It’s not just stating your opinion and walking away, and its not necessarily converting the other person,” she said.
Unfortunately, Schroeder said, it’s a skill that students don’t usually learn.
“It’s important to allow strong feelings on both sides,” said Carolyn Bainski of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. “It never hurts to hear the other side.”
Stump and other participants hoped that more student groups would join in future discussions. College Republicans, ROTC and religious groups were specifically mentioned.
Although Wednesday’s discussion remained unfocused, all agreed that the dialogue was an important one.
“This could be a really wonderful opportunity for people to engage over time, to combine education and dialogue,” said Gaia Mika of Counseling and Psychology Services.
A preliminary coordinating committee was established during the meeting, and the next event is tentatively scheduled for next Wednesday at 6 p.m.