By Casey Elliott
November 3, 2005
More than 100 students walked out of class Wednesday and gathered on the Ohio University College Green to express their opinions against the Bush administration, its policies and the war in Iraq. The gathering then marched along Court Street and stopped at the armed forces recruiting center on Carpenter Street.
The rally, an event organized by the Athens Can’t Wait Coalition, had a group of speakers from a number of organizations, such as Students for Peace and Justice, Federation of United Queers, InterAct and Positive Action. They led the rally with calls to end the war, return troops home, question the Bush administration and to stop recruitment.
Ctiristine Merker, 21, joined the group with the Athens Can’t Wait Coalition, supporting the notion of “driving out the Bush regime” and “starting a counter-recruiting campaign.”
“I believe that silence is submission,” she said Wednesday. “I believe if you don’t agree with something that is happening in government, you should speak out.”
Similar sympathies were expressed by 18-year-old Josh Richardson, with the group InterAct, who said he personally is not in favor of the war, but is not entirely convinced the natuona can pull out of it now. What he hoped to accomplish at the demonstration was to “raise awareness of the unfair practices of recruiters,” he said.
“I believe with lower recruitment nationally, the administration will have to critically look at the war,” he said.
Richardson said he is also concerned about the lack of funding for social programs and the turn the Bush administrations’ environmental policy is taking.
OU student Luke Netley, 19, attended as a “concerned community member and students” who wanted to get involved. Bentley’s goal was to raise awareness and urge residents not to show blind loyalty.
Hocking College student Heather Coner, 19, expressed a similar view.
She attended because of her concerns about poorer residents and youth targeted for military service, and also wanted to make sure people speak out about their concerns and not be afraid to say what they think.
While many in attendance marched with a variety of goals seeking change in domestic and foreign policies, others watched the demonstration with differing viewpoints.
OU history professor Bruce Steiner approved of the students’ desire to speak their minds and take action for what they believe in, however, he said he did not believe the size of the gathering would have much impact.
He further noted that, while taking part in political discussion is educational in some respects, he does not believe walking out of class was the best way to that education.
“I think President Bush made a number of mistakes in his time in office, but I am not in favor of pulling out troops,” he said. “I think they (the students) have a right to have an assembly, but I don’t think they have a right to close the recruitment station.”
OU Dean of Students Terry Hogan echoed that sentiment.
“While it is certainly important that students become engaged in the issues of the day, I believe the educational process is part of that and this is not an alternative” to that process, he said.
Some students watched the demonstration in silence, not necessarily agreeing with the statements made by the protesters.
“No one like war, but sometimes it is necessary,” 21-year-old Matt Monter said. “They should look deeper into the issues instead of just looking at the war on the surface.”
“Just think if we were living in oppression, we wouldn’t be having this little rally to speak our opinions,” said Tom Glissman, 20. “They should be grateful to speak out. And they shouldn’t be blaming the president for things that are not in his control, like Hurricane Katrina. There is no way the president could stop a natural disaster.”