Randel assuages war concerns

By Lanceta Joel

President Randel addressed the anxiety that has developed as a result of the war with Iraq in an e-mail sent to the University community earlier this week. The message was mailed as U.S. troops led a coalition offensive toward Baghdad. Dismissing the comparison of the University to “an ivory tower,” Randel implied the University’s vulnerability and said that it is deeply affected by the war. While doing this, he assured people that the University is working to ensure a haven for scholarship and that it is prepared to respond to any emergency that threatens campus security.

Randel also listed several University resources to which students can turn for guidance, such as the Student Counseling and Resource Service, Campus Ministries, and the Staff and Faculty Assistance Program.

“The mission of this great University must remain steadfast,” Randel said in the e-mail. “Our commitment to teaching and research that helps us better understand the world that we now inhabit is especially valuable in times of great turmoil. Now, more than ever, our principles and our renewed commitment to work against suffering and ignorance must guide us.”

While attempting to assuage students’ fears about the war without having specific answers, University administrators keep the discussion about the war open.

“It’s impossible to anticipate what will happen,” said Provost Richard Saller. “We’ll deal with it as it comes. There are ongoing discussions with top-level administrators to make sure what we’ve done for the University is prudent. The top officers meet once a week, and the war with Iraq has become an ongoing issue at those meetings.”

The war has driven a significant number of students to seek counseling from campus ministries, according to Allison Boden, Dean of Rockefeller Chapel.

“It’s impossible to put a number on this, but the campus ministers certainly have had a number of interactions with students about the war,” Boden said. “Some of our students have been called to active military duty and have sought the support of their campus ministries.  Others have relatives and friends in the Middle East for whom they are concerned. Some groups have been holding prayers for peace, and the Chapel has had candles available for those who wish to light them and meditate in the sanctuary.”

Student perspectives have been wide-ranging and diverse, though anti-war protesters have been more vocal in recent weeks. Nick Juravich, a first-year in the College, is a member of UC No War Iraq, one of the student organizations leading protests against the war in Iraq. Though the war continues to intensify, Juravich said that he and his colleagues will keep protesting, calling for ceasefires, peace talks, and other forms of diplomacy.

“The premise of any war of this magnitude ending quickly is an illusion,” Juravich said. “American and Iraqi lives continue to be wasted, and we’ll deal with this war for years to come. The rebuilding of Iraq, the occupation, will probably take all four years I’m here [at the College].”

Tom Longwell, a fourth-year student in the College who supports the war, was of a different mind. “I believe the best course of action for the University concerning Iraq is honest debate about the future of Iraq, paired with earnest support of the members of the Armed Forces deployed in Iraq, as well as support for the goals of their mission,” he said.

Amber Atwood, a first-year in the College, is against the war, but agreed with Longwell that we should support the troops. “We should at all times be willing to set aside our political differences and be concerned the most with the welfare of the men and women currently in Iraq,” she said. “Your stance on the war is not going to change the fact that the country is already at war and that there are people currently dying for this country.”

The International House’s Global Voices Program, in conjunction with the Norman Wait Harris Fund of the Center for International Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the Human Rights Program, is hosting a continuing lecture series entitled “Rethinking America in the Middle East” to further explore the war in Iraq as well as the post-war ramifications.

As for the University’s role in the war and its aftermath, Saller referred to the Defense Threat Reduction Act (DTRA), which authorizes funding to research socio-cultural understanding. With part of the government’s effort to research global relations, the University is currently drafting a proposal under the DTRA to allow professors in International Relations and Middle Eastern culture to inform government officials on policy.

Federal officials have already starting visiting the campus to meet with certain professors, Saller said.