Some wonder if recent college protests are a blast from the past
Joan Wile ran in radical University of Chicago circles in the 1940s, later joined the anti-nuke movement and eventually tried to stop teenagers from signing selective service cards when draft registration was resurrected after Vietnam.
Years later, local college students seem to be following in her footsteps but for very different reasons.
In the past few months students have taken over school buildings three times, demanding the removal of administrators, scholarships and access to school financial information.
I wish they were out protesting the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, said Wile, now a member of the Granny Peace Brigade. During Vietnam when students took over universities it was about the war, it was important. It helped change policy.
Protesters at New York University in February and at the New School, which had takeovers in December and this month, have been showered with almost equal amounts of support, scorn and ridicule for their tactics and demands. Some of the most leavened measure of the protests legitimacy came from veteran activists like Wile.Yotam Marom, 23, a student at the New School who took part in a December protest by occupying a cafeteria, said student activists are also involved in broader causes but also feel its important to change the world around you.
This is an area we can take responsibility for in an act to change it and the world outside of it, he said.
NYU students took over a cafeteria and presented a laundry list of demands in February, which included more transparency in the budget and scholarships for students from the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, New School students have asked for the university president Bob Kerrey to be removed, among other demands. The December New School protest yielded some concessions from the school, but the one earlier this month only resulted in student arrests or suspensions.
Many criticized whether the student demonstrators demands called for taking over a school building.
They have the right to protest but there are better ways to solve the problem, said Sheldon Sucre, 24, a Manhattan Community College student. Protesting like this should be a last resort.
However, the demonstrators said they had tried other methods and felt a more public act would get the attention their causes deserved. Why am I paying $50,000 a year for a school that treats me like a number, that doesnt let me know where my money is spent? said Emily Stainkamp, 18, one of 18 NYU student protesters suspended. Theres no reason not to want to improve your school.