Find more effective ways to protest the Iraq war

By Clare Ryan & Will Howell

We, the authors, stand passionately opposed to the war in Iraq. With our consciences set, we should not use this space to question rightness or wrongness, but rather to ask the more pressing moral question: what is the most effective form of opposition?The proposal to cancel classes on Nov. 6 in protest of the war in Iraq, put forth by certain faculty members and endorsed by The Mac Weekly’s editorial board, is ineffective. As you read this, the proposal will have passed or failed. Regardless of the outcome, we oppose the method of protest, and believe Macalester can learn from this experience.

We oppose this method based on matters of symbolism and sacrifice.

This proposal is merely symbolic. What new information will be taught on Nov. 6 that we cannot get on our own?

Macalester students are bright: they know this war’s facts, and have unfortunately chosen not to act with the drive some members of our faculty would like. While regrettable, one day of teach-ins will not inspire major action.

Viewing this measure from the faculty, we do not see a group of people stepping up to their own moral challenge. Instead, we see a group of people unwilling to sacrifice anything of value for a cause in which they believe, deflecting the negative ramifications on to students and administrators.

If faculty proponents have the conviction, they ought to cancel class, but they ought to do it in a way that accepts responsibility. This includes sacrificing salary for a day of no teaching, and sacrificing the comfort of institutional protection.

If students think there is something of greater importance than attending class, then we will choose to miss class and accept the consequences. It should be no different for faculty.

The faculty members who authored this proposal push responsibility for their moral position on to the administration. In putting the administration in a position where it must cancel classes (or appear pro-war), the faculty commits two offenses.

First, faculty members undercut the primary role of an educational institution-discussion, debate, and mutual development. By imposing anti-war views on the Macalester community, minority opinions are preemptively silenced rather than engaged.

Second, they open our administrators to the reactions of angry alumni and community supporters. Instead, faculty members should have the courage to engage dissenting opinions themselves.

If any faculty member sees a moral imperative to cancel class, that member should create a forum to debate this issue. If proponents must cancel their classes to discuss the war, they should donate their salaries for that day to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, or another charitable organization supporting our troops. This will prove that their commitment to the antiwar movement goes beyond mere symbolism.

We challenge our Macalester peers to find creative and effective ways to bring this war to a close. This must go beyond our Macalester bubble. We must not be afraid to engage those who disagree with us honestly, and to accept the consequences of our choices.

Clare Ryan ’08, a Political Science major from Amherst, Mass., can be contacted at [email protected] Will Howell ’08, a Political Science major from Salem, Ore., can be reached at [email protected]