War in Iraq spurs debate, action at WFU

The war with Iraq has elicited an array of responses from students at Wake Forest University including a demonstration at a university entrance to show support for the U.S. administration and military troops, candlelight vigils on campus and in downtown Winston-Salem to protest military action in Iraq, an ongoing campus drive to gather items needed by U.S. soldiers, and several forums and panel discussions designed around the topics of war and U.S. foreign policy.

On Thursday, March 20, the day after the official start of the war, members of the Wake Forest College Republicans gathered at the Reynolda Road entrance to campus holding signs that read “Honk For America” and “Support Our Troops.” That same day, a group of “WFU Students Against the War in Iraq” gathered at Winston-Salem’s Five Points intersection to protest U.S. military action in Iraq. Later that night, students participated in two candlelight vigils to protest the war, one on the university’s Magnolia Court and another at the Winston-Salem office of U.S. Rep. Richard Burr, R-5th.

Since the start of war, classroom discussion and casual conversation has rarely ventured far from the topic, and several groups and Wake Forest academic departments have started to sponsor events designed to generate discussion about the issue. Active groups and departments include College Democrats, College Republicans, WFU Students Against the War in Iraq, a specially created group called “Faculty Raising Dialogue,” and the political science, economics, communication, and English departments.

William Fleeson, associate professor of psychology and an organizer of the “Faculty Raising Dialogue” group, said he helped start the group in October because it was clear at the time that there had been little campus debate about the question of war. Fleeson says war is one of the most pressing issues a society can grapple with.

“This issue is on the minds of Wake Forest students,” Fleeson said. “I have had several come up to me and ask about it, and they are looking for answers to questions that the media has been unable to give them. I think we have a responsibility to discuss this issue as a community.”

“Faculty Raising Dialogue” has sponsored two panel discussions designed around the question of war. The most recent event, held March 25, featured four panelists, two in favor of the ongoing war and two opposed, who addressed the topic “Constructing An American Foreign Policy for the 21st Century.” The discussion brought more than 100 participants to Annenburg auditorium in Carswell Hall for a lively discussion.

In addition to the forum, College Democrats have started a drive to collect items like paper, pens, snacks, chapstick, toilet paper, deodorant, instant coffee and foot powder to send to U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

University Chaplain Ed Christman organized a program of prayer, music and silence in response to the war in Iraq that was held at 8 p.m. March 24 in Wait Chapel. The program was open to the entire Winston-Salem community.

Forrest Sturgis, a senior from Rock Hill, S.C., helped organize the anti-war group “WFU Students Against the War in Iraq” in October, and he said his intention in creating the group was to create debate on campus. The group has signed up more than 100 students to an e-mail list, and they have collected more than 400 signatures from Wake Forest students opposed to the war.

“I am against a war with Iraq because it is an offensive war,” Sturgis said. “It undermines the idea of an international community. It has been imposed on us by fear of another September 11. I think the anti-war movement coming out of college campuses is important. It’s up to us to reach out to all members of the community to get this debate started.”

Robert Whaples and several of his colleagues in the university’s economics department organized an impromptu forum March 25 to discuss the war’s effect on the economy. About 40 students and faculty members gathered in Carswell Hall at 11 a.m. to hear professors with varied economic expertise share their views and answer questions about the economy.

The political science department has been sponsoring the yearlong lecture series
”Living with the Legacy of September 11,” and past topics have fit in with growing debate about the threat of war. Now that war has started, the lectures have become even more relevant, and the upcoming lecture by Robert Entman, professor in the communication department at North Carolina State University, on the topic of “The Media, Public Opinion, and the War on Terrorism” should bring a large crowd to the Law Auditorium (room 1312) at the university’s Worrell Professional Center. The lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 10.

Categories: Community, Events, Student